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Myth Buster Coaching

Four Pillars of Effective Coaching

Are you really coaching?

Coaching is very widely written about in the business world because of its importance in people development, management improvement and driving performance towards results. In our experience, it is also often misunderstood, misapplied and over promoted by sales consultants with a large array of methods, models and approaches. As with other areas of business there is an incumbent champion model. Just as customer experience measurement is dominated by Bain and Reicheld’s NPS, coaching has a dominate methodology in the GROW technique. OK, OK, we know there are others but this one floats to the top in general discussion.


Unfortunately, we see all too often performance is stuck despite frequent investment in GROW and other methods. We’ll try and unpack why that happens and what is missing. Our evidence base is twenty-five

years of diagnosing performance, designing solutions and applying change techniques. We have seen many a light-bulb moment in our coaching workshops when team leaders and managers have discovered for the first time, how the techniques we recommend come together to deliver effective coaching. Many of them just hadn’t recognised that it’s not just about target setting and some loose plan to get there. Just because you spend an hour a month in a “development” meeting, doesn’t mean you are a good coach.

We’ll explain more.

Why it matters

We have also learnt that coaching done well is crucial.

We are often amazed how large corporations under develop front line staff be they retail, contact centre, chat or back office. As customer experience, has emerged as a key strategic weapon, front line operations have moved from, ‘cost centres that we need to cut’, to the core channels that carry out the strategy of the company. Operational execution becomes a critical success factor. You could have the best strategy and customer experience design in the world, however without good operational execution, you will end up with a diminished outcome.

Coaching to what

One client called us to late tender for a programme. This sharp executive intuitively knew he needed to accelerate performance in the centre and asked a panel of consultants to tender for a coaching programme. We won that tender by asking a question that no other group had asked; simply, “Coaching to what?” After some bemused faces, questions and role plays, the penny dropped. Faced with a panel of standard coaching programmes using all the well-trod models, we pitched that a best practice operational transformation with embedded coaching was the key. The “what” was a set of practices that didn’t exist in the organisation.

We don’t see coaching as a panacea. It is part of the glue in an intentional organisational design, clearly laid out practices and leaders given the time and ability to take accountability for their team’s performance. There are a few key concepts here, we will unpack them one at a time.

Organisation design and channel strategy

Coaching is always critical to ensure it re-enforces the organisation design and channel strategy. Often we see fractured organisational evolution and misaligned channel behaviour as the current state. With the speed of channel evolution, disjointed responsibilities and changes in management and ideas, the net result is often confused and ineffective role structure across channels.

We find that is easily fixed. A rapid discovery process including real time observation across all channels will quickly unlock the optimal design for an operation and show how the organisation can be re- connected. (It’s surprising to us that this is not a standard process that companies undertake each year). What this means for coaching is that the role of each channel becomes far clearer in areas like support and promotion of other channels. Too often we see management with a clear view of channel strategy but it hasn’t filtered down to front line behaviour. Coaching has a critical role to play in making that happen.

Coaching to what: Best Practices

Secondly, we mentioned clearly laid out practices. This is the key area that convinced several clients that they didn’t just need “a coaching program”. Remember, we asked the question, “Coaching to what?” This is a bit controversial today because of a lot of management hype promoting empowered front line staff to do the “right thing” and preaching, “culture eats strategy for breakfast”.

o us well defined practices can be the bed rock of a great culture and empowered workforce. These same executives who preach “empowerment”, would always agree that some form of training is good. Why not take that further and define for staff the best way to make a sale, solve a problem or retain a customer? Front line staff are

dealing with a myriad of products, services, systems and objectives. Well defined practices are like the well-trodden path showing them the way through the forest. They don’t have to be a rigid constraint, but they can be a great help to show what, “good looks like”.

We have seen exceptional results by specifying how we deliver sales and service using these kinds of practices. The modern term is “service design, though we still call them best practice design for each interaction. Best practice design is brilliant for coaching as they define the best methods. Heh presto, suddenly team leaders know what to look for in coaching. Front line leaders can be specific in getting the best experience outcomes for customers and the business. The omni-channel holy grail of integrating digital and other channels e.g. text, chat, etc. into specific transactions and steps is another outcome.

Performance accountability: time and accountability

Thirdly (and fourthly), we mentioned the time and ability for a leader to take true accountability for their team’s performance. We know from experience that this these are the core barriers in many companies


Team Leaders and retail managers for example don’t have the time to coach and use ineffective models when they do. The leader role is essential in delivering the strategy for the organisation, however it is often burdened by an astounding array of audit, payroll, helping, escalating, reporting, project and other tasks that mean they spend next to no time with their teams. In our diagnostics, we run a team leader/manager role workshop and hear repeatedly that 70-80% of their time is consumed with admin or transactional stuff, with possibly only 10% of time on coaching. Though called coaching it isn’t effective.

We implement models where we have leaders spend a minimum two hours a day side by side with staff concentrating on their middle to lower performers. Now they have a clear organisational structure and channel strategy, defined practices and time to coach the effect is rapid and empowering. We have seen retail stores and contact centres where NPS has risen from 14 to 60, sales centres doubling their closure rate and administration areas drop outstanding requests by 70%. Coaching on the right things at the right time is genuinely transformative.

One last discussion regarding the coaching method. Here as well we think there is a genuine misunderstanding of the application of the GROW model. The GROW model is very popular; we think it could possibly be implemented in 90% of clients we visit. GROW can be appropriate in development sessions or even counselling, however it is not effective in the day to day ‘practice coaching’ that is needed to move team performance.

We have had great success where we get management and leaders out of their offices, doing less monitoring and preparation – it is not needed and even impedes the short iterative feedback sessions we favour. We have our leaders throw away the sheets, reports and documents, get into the day to day of the team, observe what is going on for particular staff and then have effective feedback conversations immediately based on the documented practices and it creates a huge lift in the team. Leaders and front line equally benefit.


Coaching is vital for organisations to develop and continuously improve their customer outcomes. It would be a shame to waste the time, energy and effectiveness of the programme with a sub optimal implementation. Please get in touch if you’d like to talk further. Call 03 9499 3550 or 0438 652 396 or email

About us

For those that are not familiar with our work, we run large scale operational transformation programmes. Typically, we form small highly capable teams from within our clients who become the task force to enable rapid large scale step change to occur. These teams learn a huge amount about modern business transformation, digital integration and generally how business works.

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