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A leader’s calling: To C.O.A.C.H. one’s team​

Today, leaders are expected to empathise with their employees and manage their performance through coaching. You don’t simply tell your subordinates what to do; you empower them to make the right decisions through your knowledge, experience and support.

In a study by the NTUC Learning Hub, 70% of respondents believe coaching boosts employee performance, 65% think coaching unleashes employee potential and 59% feel that coaching increases employee engagement.

But how exactly does effective on-the-job coaching work? One proven framework for guiding and mentoring employees successfully is the C.O.A.C.H. model which stands for Connect, Observe, Assess, Clarify and communicate, and How to change.

Let’s go through each component.

  1. Connect

Successful leaders employ a personal approach to managing their teams. Effective on-the-job coaching requires a relationship that’s built on trust and psychological safety so that meaningful conversations take place.

How do you genuinely connect with your team?

One way is by asking them about their goals, struggles, hobbies, favourite activities, or travel stories. It doesn’t always have to be about work, but the savviest of leaders know how to bounce from work topics to life conversations without being intrusive.


  1. Observe

After connecting with your team in a personal, but unintrusive way, it’s time to observe.

Be present in key workplace moments where they can get insight from you, like when your employee is doing a presentation, facilitating a meeting or supervising a project. After witnessing or even participating in such scenarios, ask your employee some probing questions that allow him or her to see opportunities for improvement:

  • What went well?
  • What didn’t?
  • What would you have done differently?

After observing and probing, you’re ready for a behaviour assessment.


  1. Assess

When it comes to assessments, you can use tools such as:

  • 360-degree or 180-degree feedback
  • Multi-rater behaviour assessments
  • Questionnaires and surveys

Whatever tool you use, your goal is to understand how your employee’s performance compares to the requirements of his or her role. Your assessment should shed light on the behaviour changes your employee should make to thrive at work. It should provide a roadmap for improved performance.


  1. Clarify and communicate

At this point, you need to review the results of these assessments with your employee so there is a mutual understanding of what needs to be done based on the feedback collected. This feedback must be clear for both you and your employee. Otherwise, he or she won’t understand what behaviours to change, how it’s done and why it’s necessary.


  1. How to change

The real challenge for you as a leader is to close the gap between actual and expected performance for your team. One powerful way is to lead by example. When you demonstrate good, new behaviours daily, it motivates your team to do the same which in turn leads to improved performance.

Reinforce those newly learned behaviours by continuously providing useful feedback and helping them see the positive results of that change.