Ten Commandments of Great Business Coaching

They’re not carved on stone tablets, but we’ve refined these helpful principles during our 15 years of coaching executives and business leaders.


1 Earn Permission to Coach

Building a foundation of trust creates a respectful relationship. Start by asking personal and career questions. Share your own story to find common ground; it’s a conversation, not interrogation. People shouldn’t feel under attack receiving coaching. They will only let their guard down if they trust and respect you.

2 Make Sure People Feel Understood

After earning initial permission, strive to keep and deepen it. This requires good listening, which is hard work. Ask open-ended questions; paraphrase and reflect on what you’ve heard; make summary statements. Practice vital nonverbal cues: smile, lean forward, make good eye contact, etc.

3 Be Immediate, Genuine, Concrete & Respectful

Timely and direct communication shows interest and sincerity. Authenticity helps cement bonds of trust. Clarifying questions ensure mutual understanding. Courtesy recognizes others’ worth and capabilities.


4 Set SMART Goals

Specific. Measurable. Achievable. Relevant. Timely. To whom are the goals relevant? A goal that is relevant to the organization but not the individual might result in compliance without commitment. Such goals are unsustainable.

5 Set Valid Goals

Before committing to a SMART goal, ask how valid it is. Such goals must meet conditions across three areas: Predictability, Methodology and Capability. For example, you need adequate capabilities (resources like money, skills, team members) to overcome barriers and sufficient motivation to persevere.


6 Capitalize on 8x Development

Research on personal growth shows the most effective SMART, valid goals are also FAST: Frequently Discussed, Actionable, Specific, and Transparent. When you hold another accountable for these goals, the results are 8x greater than a plan without accountability.

7 Communicate in Whole Messages

Whole messages encompass four elements: Sharing facts, Giving opinions, Explaining feelings, and Soliciting solutions. When you give feedback that first expresses confidence in another’s ability to meet high expectations, the result is 40% more effective.


8 Stay Engaged and Get Creative

Driving sustainability in business coaching is all about establishing an environment that encourages people to take ownership of their own development. To stay engaged even during failure, seize “coachable moments” to create learning opportunities. You may need to connect coachee with others who are better suited to observe or advise.

9 Wildly Celebrate Growth

The power of praise is amazing, and each person uniquely responds to combinations of the 5 languages of appreciation in the workplace – words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, tangible gifts, and physical touch – outlined in the book by Gary Chapman and Paul White. To demonstrate care in the workplace, you can also give recognition, greater responsibility, increased freedom, or more interesting work.

10 Empower People to “Try Stuff”

A supportive, caring, and open environment will inspire curiosity, experimentation, and self-reflection that leads to personal and organizational growth. Frame your feedback around intention, behavior, and impact. Integrity is more than aligning words and behavior: it’s aligning intentions and impact.

Questions? These 10 commandments of great business coaching are only an overview. Please contact us to learn more about our coaching and leadership development programs and services.