Shifting from Evaluating to Coaching

How many times a day does this scenario happen in your organization?

A Manager walks into the office and asks one of his direct reports, “Did you review progress against the quarterly goals in your morning meeting today?”  After getting a “Yes” response the Manager then asks, “Did you work with supply chain to resolve the backups?”  And again, after getting a positive response, the Manager ends with the question, “Do you have everything you need from me for tomorrow?”


Many people read the above scenario and think—Seems okay to me. He asked questions and got the information he needed. When I hear conversations like this I think, What a missed opportunity.

Leadership is more than just fact finding and evaluating at the end of the day. I put questions like the ones above in the “Did you do it?” or audit category. While there are times for audit questions, audit questions only benefit the person asking the question, not the person answering the question. Doing this takes it out of the realm of leadership and puts it firmly in the realm of management. Leadership is not just about getting results. Leadership is about developing your people to achieve results. There is a subtle, yet profound difference.

Developing people to achieve business results is where the shift from evaluation management to coaching happens. ADI defines coaching as the following: “Coaching is the purposeful development of skills in the natural environment to produce a desired outcome. Coaching relies on systematically providing instruction and resources, building in repetition, and delivering helpful feedback and positive reinforcement to build effective behaviors.” To say it more plainly, coaching is about the purposeful development of your people, and it is the most important task of any leader. 

What is missing in the above scenario is any development of the direct report or purposeful connection to the results achieved and what the person did to achieve those results. If you have humans in the workplace, you have behavior to lead. How someone goes about achieving a result is just as, or in many cases, more important than achieving the result itself. Building effective behaviors ensures skills are proactively developed, results are achieved the right way, best practices are learned, and fundamental shifts in systems or processes are made to make achieving the result easier in the future. 

The easiest way start shifting from evaluating to coaching is to begin asking how a result was achieved and by delivering positive reinforcement for behaviors you want to see more of. Change the conversation from “Did you do it?” type questions to “How did you do it?” questions. Asking how creates a two-way conversation in which the performer describes behaviors that made him or her successful. This gives the leader an opportunity to listen, learn and coach. 

Coaching is about purposeful development of effective behaviors within others. Leaders’ ability to develop effective coaching skills defines how helpful they are to direct reports and how successful they will be for the organization. Moving away from auditing towards purposeful coaching will help you become a better leader, help your direct reports develop their skills and ultimately produce better results for the organization. This lasting legacy is the best result any leader could ask for.    

Posted by Bryan Shelton

Bryan applies his knowledge and expertise in strategic planning to help organizations align employee performance with company goals. Bryan helps clients create improvement across a variety of business metrics including company growth, profitability, customer service, vision alignment, leadership development, and culture change. He also helps clients implement process improvement initiatives, improve sales results and using performance-pay systems to help drive company results. His behavior-based approaches and applications have supported clients’ improvement initiatives, leadership development, and the design and implementation of performance pay systems.