5 Coaching Essentials to Advance Employee Performance

There are many different styles of coaching. But there are a few essentials when it comes to building an effective coaching style that will advance performance.

Coaching is just like painting. Each artist has their own style, but there are a few essentials such as some form of canvas, paint, and tools to paint with. For coaching, here are a few “arts” you should focus on mastering:

The Art of Listening

Just because we can hear, doesn’t mea we are always listening. There are times employees will feel misunderstood or not listened to. The way people leaders listen and react matters.

Consider these three levels of listening:

  1. Internal Listening (Listening to Respond) – At the first level, we tend to think about how to respond while the other person is talking. We stop listening once our brain has crafted a response and are just waiting for them to finish talking so we can say it.
  2. Focused Listening (Listening for Content) – The next level is focusing on understanding what the other person is trying to say. Think of this level of listening as putting your head down and taking notes based on what the person is communicating.
  3. Global Listening (Listening for All Sensory Data) – At the final level, we are completely present with the person speaking. We are engaging all senses to understand the person. We take note of emotions, tone of voice, body language, feelings, and even what they may not be expressing. This helps us capture more of the big picture.

The goal is to reach level 3 and be able to listen intelligently and empathetically. Keep in mind that most of our communication is not verbal. A good rule of thumb is 7-38-55. Only 7% of meaning is communicated through spoken word, 38% through tone of voice, and 55% though body language. So it’s important for us to utilize global listening to truly listen to and understand others.

The Art of Asking Questions

Telling employees what to do narrows their thinking. Asking questions expands it. And expanded thinking is needed for growth and transformation. It sets the stage for a deep dive into the self. To explore what is beneath the surface.

Great questions expand, elevate, advance, challenge, and deepen thinking. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when asking questions:

  • Ask one question at a time rather than stacking multiple together
  • Ask short questions, usually 7 words or less
  • Ask open-ended questions
  • Use “What?” instead of “Why?” to keep questions neutral
  • Use silence to let them think and explore
  • Ask “What else?”
  • Ask employee-oriented vs. manager-oriented questions

The Art of Reframing

Reframing is the process of helping others see something from a different perspective. One way to do this is by changing the viewpoint. Guide your employees to see the good that can come from a situation and what positive outcomes may await on the other side. An example is changing the viewpoint “failure is the limit of my abilities” to “failure is an opportunity to grow.”

Another tactic is jumping ahead in time. Ask your employee to imagine themselves 5 or so years from now as a leader. What learnings and experiences will have been needed to get them there? Shift their perspective from “I can’t” to “I can’t yet.”

The Art of Strengths Coaching

Building high performing teams will be difficult if you only look at talent. Investment is just as important (if not more) in finding and refining strengths. Consider this equation:

Talent (natural way of thinking, feeling, behaving) + Investment (time spent
practicing, developing skills, building knowledge base) = Strengths

Strengths are the sum of natural talent and continual investment. Along with continual investment and development of strength will come some growing pains. Growth can be uncomfortable and will include failure at times. Make sure you recognize efforts and wins along the way, no matter how big or small.  

The Art of Opening & Closing

Opening and closing refers to the beginning and end of coaching conversations or one-on-ones with employees. At the beginning of meetings, establish a foundation of trust and make employees feel safe and comfortable. Get to know your employees on a personal level. At the end, employees should leave feeling energized. There should be clarity on goals and how to work towards achieving them. Each coaching conversation should feel like a little bit of a progress towards aspirations.


Honing these five arts creates the essential foundation for a coaching strategy. Having an effective coaching strategy is critical now more than ever. Employees are seeking a workplace and a manager that will foster their development, personally and professional. As a people leader, you can be a coach that helps find that growth they crave!



These coaching essentials are inspired by a session from the 2022 Gallup At Work Summit. The session was run by Danny Lee, Executive Coach & Sr. Global Workplace Consultant.