Coaching plans help employees create the short and long-term goals that will lead them to effective personal and professional development and continued success. As a manager, it’s your job to collaborate on a coaching plan with each of the team members you manage, offering consistent encouragement and feedback along the way.
In this article, we break down what a coaching plan is, examples in the workplace, and how you can utilize coaching plans in one-on-one meetings.
A coaching plan is a way for managers to encourage, train, and motivate their employees in order to improve their performance and keep them engaged in the development of the business as well as their own personal and professional development.
When it comes to a coaching plan, collaboration is the name of the game. What does the employee want from their career? How do they want to advance? Work with each of your team members to develop and determine specific short-term and long-term goals. What does improvement look like?
It’s important to work closely with your employees to develop a coaching plan. Once a plan is developed, it’s essential that managers check in on the employee’s progress consistently in order to find new areas of improvement and provide continuous feedback and encouragement.
Regular one-on-one meetings with a clear plan at the outset are an example of effective coaching in the workplace. The one-on-one provides opportunities for private goal setting and honest feedback between managers and direct reports. It’s a chance for the manager to get to know an employee's development goals and to help them reach those goals.
Of course, a one-on-one meeting isn’t the only space to offer coaching to your employees. If the entire team needs to learn something together, such as how to use new software, this kind of coaching can be conducted in a group meeting.
You can also coach your team members in a less direct way by leading by example and developing a work environment built on trust, enthusiasm, integrity, mutual respect, and innovation. By having strong values and living them every day, as well as through your own unbridled enthusiasm for the work, you inspire your employees to do the same. You not only talk the talk—you walk the walk.
This management style is known as transformational leadership. Transformational leaders are role models to the other members of their team. As opposed to offering basic cash incentives or encouraging competition amongst team members, employees are motivated to perform well because it’s the right thing to do; the values of their leader and the business align with their own values.
📚 Learn more in our guide to transformational leadership: how to inspire innovation.
Open communication and building a strong rapport with each of your employees is vital to the success of any coaching plan. The best space for this is in a one-on-one meeting. Regardless of the size of your business, the one-on-one meeting is the foundation of the employee-manager relationship.
Regular one-on-one meetings improve team engagement, strengthen relationships and build trust, provide a safe space to give encouragement and constructive feedback, track projects and goals, and keep you accountable to one another.
An employee’s personal and professional goals are private, so there’s no better space to openly communicate and coach employees. Go into a coaching session/one-on-one meeting prepared with a meeting agenda and structure your communication and feedback with performance review questions.
What do you want out of the meeting? What does your direct report want? Share the agenda with the employee and collaborate on it to ensure they receive the coaching they want.
Tie a coaching plan to the agenda. A coaching plan will ensure one-on-ones go smoothly and actually occur on a consistent basis. The plan will help you stay on track; plus, it provides a clear path forward and a framework to follow, ensuring specific goals, questions, follow-up questions, and milestones are remembered from meeting to meeting.
📚 Learn more in our manager's guide to one-on-one meetings.
The GROW model, developed by Sir John Whitmore, is a simple framework you can use to guide your one-on-one coaching sessions.
GROW stands for:
What do you want?
Start the session off by identifying the goals. Refer back to these goals throughout the meeting to keep the focus on moving forward. The focus of the meeting shouldn’t be on past mistakes or dwelling on something that wasn’t accomplished in the past. Identifying the needs and wants of the employee keeps the meeting focused on finding solutions.
Possible Goal questions:
Where are you now?
This piece of the framework discusses and examines the employee’s world as it exists in the current moment. How is what’s happening right now affecting the employee as well as their fellow coworkers? The questions in this section seek to dig deep and build the employee’s awareness.
Most coaching sessions strictly deal with the past and the future. What didn’t go well? What will you do to improve next time? The present is rarely discussed. Understanding their current reality enables the employee to look at a situation from multiple perspectives, gain new insight, and make informed decisions concerning how best to move forward.
Possible Reality questions:
What could you do?
Once the employee better understands their current reality or gains a fresh insight about how to move forward, they’ll naturally be ready to move on to the Options section to determine how they could move forward.
As a manager and coach, you will be able to recognize the employee’s readiness to move on by observing their body language. If they sit up a little straighter, are able to breathe a little easier, or if they begin to smile, you can move on to the Options questions.
The questions in this section are open-ended. They’re designed to guide the employee toward discovering their own solutions. Keep asking questions until the employee stops coming up with more options.
Possible Options questions:
What will you do?
The previous Options section is designed to help the employee see all the possibilities they have in front of them and all the possible roads they could take to achieve their goals. The Will section determines the actual concrete actions the employee will commit to taking.
It’s not about figuring out what the employee believes they should do. What will they do? Help them to determine a path that works with their work habits, communication preferences, and unique set of skills—not against them. This is where accountability comes in. What can the employee reasonably commit to?
Possible Will questions:
Review meeting notes and note the action items the employee will tackle before the next one-on-one meeting. If the employee hesitates before answering these questions, go back through the GROW model. It’s important to use this model to find the most comfortable way forward for the employee. How can they apply the very real strengths they have right now, not the ones they imagine they’ll acquire some time in the future. What can they comfortably and confidently commit to right now?
Communication is essential to effective coaching—both synchronous communication and asynchronous communication. Utilize tools like Slack, Zoom, and Charma to keep the lines of communication open, no matter where in the world you and your virtual team members are located.
Charma is the best practice toolkit for managers to organize, motivate, and engage their teams, beloved by managers, HR, executives, and ICs alike. Find tools to help manage agendas for one-on-one meetings and team meetings, action items, team collaboration, continuous feedback, recognition, and goals — all in one place.
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