How do you coach?

3 min readJun 16, 2024


I got a coach when I started in management. She was part of a local coaching network, and her day job was as head of children and families at a different local authority. I enjoyed my trips to various regional areas, getting out of the office and into other environments. Through these coaching sessions, I was able to develop a more strategic mindset, improve my communication skills, and build stronger relationships with my team members.

Coaching has never been a blue-sky-thinking conversation where I waffle and go off-piste — I have many of those already! Neither was it seeking help or advice or even reassurance. My coaches have always been curious — wanting to get under the skin of what issues I was trying to tackle, incisive — asking questions to help me pinpoint the problem and action-orientated — challenging me to identify what I’d do as a result of the session and when by. For instance, in one session, my coach asked me to reflect on a recent conflict I had with a team member and how I could have handled it differently. This led to a deeper understanding of my communication style and a commitment to improve it.

Shortly after my first experience, I trained to become a coach, but I haven’t retrained since, even though I’vetaken part in peer coaching clinics.

Using a coaching style is so essential to managers. However, I find I can be tempted to share my advice on what I’d do if I were in the situation of someone coming to me for help. Every person has a different leadership style, and I’ve learnt that sometimes you need to take a more directive approach and sometimes more of a coaching style. Deep down, I know a coaching style is always preferable for people’s personal development.

I share what I think about the context and direction senior leaders want to go in, such as our focus on innovation and customer-centricity, and the principles that should guide the project, such as transparency and collaboration. I do this to help people have a framework from which to build. I also share more about my leadership style so people know I won’t be micro-managing them, but they can call upon me for advice and stretch them. I’ve learnt to share less about exactly what I’d do if I were running the project so I don’t suffocate people’s creativity and because, ultimately, the way the project works will need to be adjusted to reality, and I won’t be in that reality daily like the person in my team will.

The power of open questions

I’ve written before about what I’ve learnt from others about how to create a great working atmosphere.

I try to ask open questions, which are questions that encourage thoughtful responses and promote deeper understanding, to get under the skin of someone’s thinking and get them to open their horizons as to how the project could work. In the heat of the moment, I may ask less open questions to move it forward, so I know I need to avoid doing that too much. I get team members to lead thinking and come up with actions at all times. I adapt my approach depending on how confident they are at doing this, but I always try to take them out of their comfort zone to stretch them.

How do you coach your staff?

When do you use a coaching style, and when do you use a directive style?

What have you learnt?




Head of Policy Design, Scrutiny & Partnerships @newhamlondon #localgov Co-founder of #systemschange & #servicedesign progs. inspired by @cescaalbanese