The 10 Commandments of Business Coaching

If you’re a leader, you’re business coaching. Every coach needs a reliable set of proven maxims to lead their employees. Here are ten commandments of leadership to live by.

The importance of each one may vary in your company, but these basic tenets are tried and true.

Ready? Let’s get started.

1. People will grow to fit your expectations.

Expectations are the most powerful motivating force we have as managers. We must hold our expectations high and act as if everyone on our teams is a high-potential talent. In doing this, we create a space for people with a lot of performance upside. On the other hand, for those working below their potential, it will help them understand that more is expected of them.

2. Focus your business coaching on the behaviors that matter most.

The best business coaches understand that people have a lot of trouble accepting criticism. Consequently, they carefully pick the best opportunities to influence behavior. A manager who says everything that comes into their mind will use up their coaching “word count” very quickly. If we know that only 10-20% of what we say to going to stick, why would we say more? Economize your coaching and get much better results.

3. See people as they can be, not as they are.

The greatest gift a manager can give an employee is seeing them as the person they can become. Often the coach is the only person in someone’s life who is willing to do this. So it is 100% appropriate and incredibly powerful to remind someone on your team of this. “In all of our interactions, I’m going to treat you as the top performer I know you are going to be.”

4. Focus on the leading indicator of success — effort.

If there’s a secret to being an exceptional coach, this is it. Average coaches pay attention to outcomes and results. Great coaches are paying attention to effort. Effort is the leading indicator of all excellent results. When your team really understands that effort is what you truly care about, you can expect extraordinary results.

5. Retention and loyalty are rooted in recognition.

People quit bosses, not companies. Your most powerful retention tool is positive recognition. Certainly it’s more powerful than compensation, titles, work environment or anything else. In today’s competitive talent marketplace, leaders need to make recognition of great work their most important responsibility.

6. Everyone needs objective measures of progress.

Key Performance Indicators, or KPIs, should be in place for every role on the team. Sometimes it takes a little creativity to discover the best KPIs for a certain role. Nevertheless, do the work and put the measures in place. Everyone deserves to know how they are performing against expectations or targets. These measures give us some of our best recognition opportunities.

7. Seek out unrecognized high performance.

Exceptional coaches have finely tuned performance sensors. They look for extraordinary effort and performance anywhere it can be found. For example, is the receptionist having a surprisingly positive impact on the customer experience? Or is there someone in the call center who is setting the pace for everyone else? What about someone who keeps finding the mistakes in documents and social media posts? Give these people the attention they deserve.

8. Intervene too early rather than too late.

Here’s another secret of excellent coaches — they get involved as soon as they know something is not going to fix itself. Average coaches usually wait way too long to intervene and leverage their influence in a situation. This kind of coaching procrastination is a telltale sign of a low-performance workplace. Remember, if you really expect everyone to do great work, you have to react when they don’t.

9. Good and bad habits harden quickly. 

Business coaches know that habits are dynamic, not static. If a person is doing something very well and it is recognized, it confirms or “hardens” the action. On the other hand, if someone is doing something that is not going to work, this is also a habit that will harden. Recognize good habits and reward them. Acknowledge bad habits as a coaching opportunity. We’ve all worked with people who’ve been bringing routinely bad habits to work for years. That means someone missed a coaching opportunity a long time ago, and are now living with the consequences.

10. Be a thermostat, not a thermometer.

How do you tell the difference between a manager and a leader? Take the thermometer test. Thermometers measure, react, report and reflect the environment. Managers are thermometers. Thermostats cause change and influence the environment. Leaders are thermostats.

Thermometers can only measure what’s happening. Thermostats cause and control what’s happening. They look the same, but they’re very different. Your coaching challenge is to be a thermostat leader.

I hope you agree with the ten commandments posted here. Remember, business coaching is a 100% learnable skill. We all have upside, we just need to be able to identify that upside and intentionally go to work on it.

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Category: Leadership

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About the Author: Wally Schmader

Wally Schmader is an experienced CEO leader and leadership coach. He’s spent 20 years in executive roles in the financial services sector. He’s authored three influential books on leadership — the #1 bestselling What Exceptional Lea

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