When it’s time to coach a team member, these 10 Coaching Commandments can help you create an effective session that gets results.

Coaching is an often underused but powerful tool. It’s underused because coaching is sometimes associated with negative situations, but you can also use coaching for positive behaviors. Coaching can encourage, set new direction, or establish authority. When you make the determination to coach a team member, here are the 10 Coaching Commandments that you should keep in each session.

One: Recognize good work. It’s easy to forget that a coaching session can be a pat on the back – a reminder that someone is heading in the right direction. Be on the lookout for corrective coaching, but always remember to look for opportunities for coaching the good work.

Two: Coach not-so-good work. This is an obvious commandment, but it’s too often overlooked! You may tend to stray away from coaching in a gray area – sometimes it may be easier to watch the employee make a mistake before saying something. Overcome your discomfort and take the time to coach – you may find that one session can point a wayward person back to the right path.

Three: Coach in private. Have you ever watched a coaching intervention occur in a public or accessible location? This type of interaction can damage a manager’s credibility – not only for the person being coached but also for anyone who saw the exchange. Use an office, a conference room, or a room with one door for control, but make your interaction private.

Four: Obtain commitment. It’s simple to explain why you’re taking the time to coach and then finish the interaction. By asking the “coachee” what he or she is going to do to improve the situation, you’re gaining a commitment. You’re also showing the person that you want their input on the expected improvement.

Five: Beware of distractions. If you have to coach a negative, look out for intentional or unintentional diversions or digressions, such as bringing up what other employees are doing or using an emotional plea. As the coach, it’s easy to lose focus and to go along with the digression without even realizing it. Focus on the behavior that’s being coached and how the “coachee” can make improvements.

Six: Focus on specific behaviors. This commandment applies to coaching for good work and bad work. If you say, “John, I’d like to thank you. You’re doing a great job”, will John know exactly what he did right? Be specific: “John, I’d like to thank you for getting yesterday’s orders out on time with no errors.” The same applies for negative behaviors.

Seven: Be aware of your body language. Coaching a negative behavior can bring out the worst body language – the kind you may not even be aware of. Focus on maintaining eye contact, keeping your hands and feet stationary, and breathing normally. Combined with the right words, this tactic can create a positive environment for the coaching as well as a positive outcome for a negative situation.

Eight: Recognize a “dead end”. Coaching is effective only if it brings about a change in behaviors or attitudes. If you continuously coach without seeing results, you may have to face the fact that your “coachee” is not planning on or is committed to improving. This kind of “dead-end” should move into the possibilities of corrective action. It’s a good idea to consult with Human Resources when you’ve made several coaching attempts without results.

Nine: Determine ability and willingness. Entire coaching programs are built on these two aspects. If you’re looking for a specific improvement, examine the “coachee” to ascertain his or her true ability to carry out the task. You must also look at willingness – is this person really going to commit or is he or she telling you what you want to hear? If ability is the issue, determine how to get the person to the right level. If willingness is the issue, explore the situation to find out why.

Ten: Believe that what a person does matters to you. This is the most important coaching commandment. You must believe in the contribution of every member of your team, in each person’s ability, and in the humanity of each person. If you do not care what the person does, he or she will know this. Show that what your “coachee” does is important to you – not only because of your business, but because you’re a leader who cares.

The next time you have the opportunity to coach, remember these commandments. You’ll be able to manage an effective coaching session – and make a difference to the team member.

Copyright Bryant Nielson. All Rights Reserved.