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The Coaching Blueprint: 7 Simple Questions to Drive Outsized Performance

Use my free "Keep Stop Start" template to engineer the productive feedback you need to win.

U.S. Open Winner Novak Djokovic, with a nod to the late Kobe Bryant

Read Time: 4 minutes 11 seconds.

Study high performers, and you’ll notice they all have one thing in common:

A coach.

Some have several.

Take US Open Champ Novak Djokovic.

He had a player’s box full of them. Including an acting coach (hint: Greenlight).

Some are coaches you hire. Some coaches seem to find you. They tell you what you need to hear, even if it’s not what you want to hear.

Djokovic paid tribute to the late Kobe Bryant after winning his 24th Major title.

“Kobe was a close friend. We chatted a lot about the winner’s mentality when I was struggling with injury and trying to make my comeback, work my way back to the top of the game,” Djokovic said. “He was one of the people that I relied on the most.”

If one of the winningest players in tennis history needs regular coaching, you can rest assured that your team does, too. We all do.

This leaves us with three options:

  1. Hope they figure things out

  2. Hire a coach for them to work with

  3. Learn how to be a better coach ourselves

Today’s playbook is all about number three.

How To Coach Your Team Effectively

Google, “Employee Coaching Models.”

  • GROW

  • OSKAR

  • FUEL

  • ACHIEVE

  • CLEAR

Apparently, the prerequisite to helping people become more effective is a memorable acronym.

Many of these share elements I agree with, but they’re most focused on you as the coach, not the people they’re designed to help.

They’re good in theory but can be hard to put into practice.

For example, nearly everyone starts by asking people about their goals.

Makes sense. Except this tends to be about as easy for them to answer as “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

75% of them will look at you unblinkingly. Now what?

And some people don’t work backward from crystal clear goals. Iterative and emergent is a viable development path.

So here’s my “minimum viable” approach to coaching. 7 questions focused on them to help you get the most from each team member.

The High Cost of Low Development

If you recruit A-players, two things are true:

  • You invest a lot of time and money

  • They want to grow fast and make an impact

But I watch countless leaders make massive investments to get the best people and then underutilize them once they join. What if you had a system to keep your best people engaged, motivated, and growing?

That’s just one pillar of the system we build together in the MGMT Accelerator. Join 50 leaders and set your team up for a high-impact 2024.

PS - Because we include 1-on-1 coaching for each leader, we cap our enrollment. We’re currently at 65% capacity, so grab your spot soon.

Do they want to grow and develop?

If not, that needs to be ok within your culture. And you shouldn’t pour yourself into a cup with a hole in the bottom.

More importantly, they have to be 100% at peace with the implications of that choice. They shouldn’t be surprised when their peers outpace them with faster promotions and higher compensation.

As I mentioned in this post, “I can’t want it for you.”

Assuming they are looking to grow…

Do they have a clear direction?

Notice I said direction and not “target.” Anyone with kids knows that development is not a straight line, so the perfect goal isn’t required.

But we need to aim ourselves at something to figure out the right coaching mix to accelerate their effort.

Sometimes, their direction will connect to a long-term career arc that might outlive your company. Other times, it might be as simple as becoming proficient in the function they’re in.

But we’re at work. So, it needs to connect to your team’s goals as well.

Mastery of this role or access to a new one?

At some level, it’s as simple as this. Get better at their current job or transition to a new one. Maybe the current role got more complicated because you’re scaling. Perhaps they’ve fallen in love with sales and want a path to shift over.

This target gives you a clear point of comparison to identify their most critical gaps.

Do they need Experience or Evolution?

Before we overinvest in helping someone improve, often they just need an opportunity to perform. What is the safest way to get them some reps? Is there a project they can pitch in on? Something internal where you can take some risks?

Once they’ve had the experience, you have data to base your coaching on. This is much more effective because it gives you a shared set of facts to base your coaching on.

How can they Amplify their Advantage?

We think coaching, and we think, “correct their biggest weakness.” Wrong.

You hired an A-player. They bring something to the table that sets them apart. Double down on this first. Small gains here tend to produce outsized impact.

Training can be a great booster for people applying their strengths in a new context or role.

How can they Supplement their Struggle?

These words were not chosen by accident. Many paths are more productive than the fool’s errand of “fixing a weakness.”

In most cases, this is a measure of last resort. Or the sign of a mismatch between role and person (Why would you want someone weak at a critical capability to do the job? And why would they want to be in a role they’ll always struggle at?

Here are better ways:

  • Can they delegate to someone better suited to the work?

  • Can they solve the problem in a way that uses their strength?

  • Can the work be automated, streamlined, or outright deleted?

Warning: They should focus on at most 1-2 development areas at a time. And if 2, one of them better be a strength. Most coaching failures start with, “Here are the seven things we’re going to fix at once.”

Do They Lack Skill or Will?

I first got exposed to this idea with my first coach. I was struggling to decide if I needed to fire someone. I optimistically believed their breakthrough day was just around the corner.

But realizing the diagnosis was desire and determination, not training and more time, the choice to remove them from the role became obvious.

So, if you’ve answered all the questions above, and they don’t seem to be closing the gap, this is a worthy question to revisit.

Keep. Stop. Start.

Is someone on your team stuck?

Here’s a simple way to help them hone in on what matters. It has the bonus of getting key people around them invested in their development.

Let’s do a quick example.

Let’s say your development context is to become a sales manager in one year.

Keep: You’ve rapidly grown your existing accounts and strategically added new ones. It seems wise to keep mastering what it takes to drive growth.

Stop: Managers become ambassadors for their team. But you’ve been causing friction with both Technology and Marketing in service to your clients. It’s time to stop doing that and find more collaborative solutions.

Start: Sales Managers need to develop salespeople. Can you start mentoring them? Can you ask to be assigned direct oversight of a couple of account reps?

The template includes my steps for having people on my team run this play. Give it a shot, and let me know what you think.

Before we leave, it’s impossible to talk about coaches without mentioning Coach Prime’s turnaround of the University of Colorado’s football team this year.

87 new players and a 2-0 start.

"I don't think I stumbled or stuttered when I told you, 'We comin'!"

Many coaches can help you get better. But don’t underestimate the power of setting high standards and showing them how to be better.

Motivating people to believe is often a coach’s most important role.

Thank you for reading. See you next Wednesday!

Dave

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