Crucial Conversations


Start by watching this opening video from Ariana, your Digital Guide.

Learning Objectives

  • You’ll challenge your perceptions of yourself: Become the coach!
  • Everyone within an organization should share its goals. You’ll learn how coaches make this happen.
  • The most effective coaches have their team’s trust and respect. You’ll focus on active listening, which is a critical tool in earning both.

* * *

Employees who are ineffective damage the bottom line. That’s not a polite way to put it; but, if you’re a leader, then it’s your problem to solve no matter how you phrase it. (Preventing it would be even better!)

At the same time, you have to focus on the effective people too. You can’t let your star players disengage.

You’ve probably seen someone on your team struggle and have wanted to help. But, maybe from your point of view, the answers couldn’t be more straightforward. Almost self-explanatory. Maybe you ask yourself: What more can I do?

Then, back to your star players, maybe you think they don’t need your input. They know what they’re doing. They don’t need direction. There’s no concerns. All of which may be true, but it’s possible that it’s not. So, what’s the plan of action?

Try a coaching approach.

Think of sports or the performing arts. Football, dancing, bowling—whichever resonates with you. Do coaches hold back the defensive line? Do they leap and twirl on the stage?

Of course they don’t. They’re the guides. The ones who observe, critique, explain, correct, mentor. With the coaches’ guidance, players win games. Dancers capture hearts.


Now let’s connect back to the professional world. Most teams have coaches and most organizations have teams, so coaching in the workplace should be a natural fit. As you go through this segment, try to see yourself in that coaching role.

Let’s start by introducing you to the case story, which features Jaqueline stepping in to support her team. Watch the following video to begin.



Think back to the video that introduced the case story. At first, Jaqueline thinks to solve the surface-level issues, but she soon realizes that she needs a more effective method. Tom has to be able to solve his own problems. If he can do that, he’s going to benefit just as much as the company will. When Jaqueline needs to focus on the long-term solutions, she thinks of coaching.

So, before we go any further on this topic, try to keep this in mind: Someone doesn’t have to be a “full-time” coach to use coaching strategies. If you can’t see yourself being a coach, it might help think of it differently. For example, you could still achieve more positive results, even if all you do is borrow some of the methods. However, if the coaching role speaks to you, then embrace it. Your official title might have the words “manager” or “director” in it, but you can still see yourself as a coach who builds the team and leads it to victory. In either case, you’ll need to know what makes a great coach great.

Coaches excel at analyzing situations. After they gather the info, they use it to target weaknesses and improve strengths. They listen to people and they guide them. Most importantly, the best coaches care about their teams’ wellbeing and success. There’s a lot more components that make a great coach, but we’ll focus on two major ones: active listening and aligning performance with goals.


Actively listening

Have you ever tried explaining your position and realize mid-sentence that there’s no point in continuing? Sometimes, it can feel like people are formulating responses instead of hearing what you’re trying to say. Once you finish your thoughts (if you get that far), you’re met with a pre-conceived reaction instead of a thoughtful response. If active listening has an opposite, then that’s a prime example. We can call it “active reactionism.”

When people deal with reactivists, they get aggravated and resentful. They lose the reactionist’s trust and respect. Once they lose those things, a total disconnect is created. And after someone shuts down, any advice or feedback can’t even go into one ear to come out the other.

Now here’s a question: Are you an active listener or an active reactivist? It’s an important question: Pause for a second and be honest with yourself.

How do you see yourself?

Well, no matter which of the two you are, you’re guaranteed to see improvements in your relationships if you strengthen your active listening skills. It does require an intentional, consistent effort, but it’s worth it. If you’re not a natural, you can learn. There’s entire books on the subject. And once you learn or if it’s how you’re already wired, you should continue to fine-tune the art of it. Without this skill, coaches won’t gain their teams’ trust.

Some tips on active listening

Active Listening



Aligning performance to goals

Business, sports, education, personal-development, non-profits, therapy sessions, books, online courses. The list goes on and on. Here’s something they all have in common: goals.

There are multiple ways to define goals. They’re everywhere. They’re infinite. So, sometimes the concept of goal-setting might come across as lofty and intangible ideas, but that doesn’t have to be true. When a goal is met, it’s usually a positive event. Try to think of a goal as the end result. However, although goals can be great, you can’t always expect a team to sustain the self-motivation to achieve them. Their performance is likely in need of nurturing. Take a guess on who can help with that.

Of course, it’s the coaches. (Or, the leaders who use coaching strategies.) If a disengaged employee isn’t meeting sales figures, the coach steers that person toward that desired result based on the goals instead of just demanding improvements. If an over-enthusiastic employee invests time on something outside of the company’s business model, then a coach guides that employee back without damaging the employee’s enthusiasm. It’s all about focusing on those two things: how the employee performs and how that leads to an accomplished goal.



When we last saw Jaqueline and Tom, they were about to meet. Let’s see how Jaqueline takes on the role of a coach.


In the follow-up video, you can see how well the conversation goes and it’s all thanks to Jaqueline’s approach. When the meeting begins, Jaqueline doesn’t start with the problems and move straight to the solutions. Instead, she allows Tom to open up.

When he talks, she actively listens without interrupting. That helps him identify the issues and solutions on his own. Also, notice how Jaqueline doesn’t use a formal assessment or extravagant chart when she navigates the conversation toward goals. In a subtle and natural way, Jaqueline leads Tom to think about changing his actions, which impacts the end results (goals) of the organization.

Jaqueline helps Tom overcome a major challenge, but he is sure to meet more in the future. By continuing to serve as a coach, she will be sure to help guide him and watch him grow.



Apply Your


The following suggestions are some things you can do on your own or with a group. They are designed to give you some options and help with initiating the coaching process.



On your own

Start with the larger issues that you are seeing.

  • Think of your team or another group of colleagues. What are their main struggles? Write down 3–5 of their issues. Then, write down 1 or 2 ways you could take a coaching approach to address each issue.

See what the team things and start there.

  • In your own words, ask or e-mail everyone on your team: “what’s the thing you struggle with the most and where do you most excel?” Then, schedule a 15-minute coaching session to cover those 2 topics.

With a group

Test out the concepts with some role-playing.

  • With at least 3 people, throw a hypothetical scenario together. Have 1 person act as the coach and one as the mentee. Have the 3rd (or more) person/people provide their thoughts on whether or not coaching took place. Then, switch roles.

Talk about what you learned.

  • If your group isn’t comfortable with its acting, try to have a discussion instead of role playing. You can work off of the videos from this segment or find a similar scenario. Critique the coaching example in the videos of this segment or those of a similar scenario. Discuss what the leader does well and what the leader could do to become a better coach.



Reflecting back and moving forward

Does the conversation between Jaqueline and Tom remind you of any past experiences (whether similar or not)? If a positive coaching experience comes to mind, try to think of how you can emulate it and also how to do the opposite for anything negative.

Does a coaching approach suit your style? If you can’t picture yourself being a “coach,” try to think if there’s any benefit in stepping outside your comfort zone to try it out. Coaching will be worth the effort if it creates results.


Go back to the specific example of sports. Even if it’s something you don’t follow, you might still be able to gain some insights from the sporting world. Can you think of any coaches who performed well as a leader? They could be close friends or celebrities. Try talking to them or searching online to seek their wisdom.

Final words of advice

Think six months from now. How’s coaching going to be relevant to your leadership strategy? Maybe you notice that someone who you’re in charge of is having a consistent issue and you want to reach the root of the problem. Maybe someone is doing an outstanding job and you want to make sure they continue to grow. Take some notes of your own and keep the Info-To-Go on-hand. Before your next meeting, review the information to keep your coaching approach in the forefront.

To wrap up this segment, watch this closing video from Ariana.

Info-To-Go and Additional Resources

The Info-To-Go document provides you with some takeaways for this segment. You’re encouraged to download or print the document so you can refer to it later. Also, refer to the HR More Page for additional resources on Coaching.