How Should You Coach? (O.F.T.E.N.) When Should You Coach? (OFTEN!)

There are models that take simple things and make them complicated. Conversely, there are models that take highly complex things and at least give you a place to start. In that regard and in the spirit of simplicity and execution, we present our advice on how to leverage Situational Leadership® in a coaching conversation. Our intention is to share a practical, repeatable process that at least has the potential to get your coaching conversations off on the right foot.


Set a tone for your discussion that aligns with the content or the theme of your objective. Sounds basic but, in practice, this is where so many coaching discussions get derailed. Frequently, in an effort to manage our own discomfort, we “ease into” discussions that have the potential of being uncomfortable based on the message we are responsible for delivering. Conversely, because we have so much to do, we rush through conversations intended to positively recognize noteworthy performance. Net-net: be intentional with the timing, the setting and the first words out of your mouth when coaching.


Think brevity and essence. In a sentence, what is it you want to talk about? For example, something like:

  • “I wanted to talk with you today about yesterday’s status update meeting. In particular, I’d like to focus on your reaction to Cheryl’s suggestion”

Or perhaps:

  • “I think it’s about time I gave you some specific examples of how truly valuable you are to this team. The positive impact you have is nothing any of us should be taking for granted”

Keep this in mind, a textbook opening and focus can be executed to perfection in less than a minute.


The natural and logical extension of a well-positioned introduction is the continuation of the conversation. This is where the coach has to be prepared to initiate a deeper dive into the topic identified during the focus. It is also where the coach has to be disciplined in the delivery of objective and verifiable behavior. Even though nobody is “on trial,” think of the transition as the juncture where you are providing “eye-witness testimony”:

  • “Cheryl disagreed with your suggestion. You interrupted her with a raised voice and restated your rationale for the next five minutes. Four people at the table, including Cheryl, didn’t say a word for the rest of the meeting”
  • “I had three people on the team last week tell me, in detail, how you went out of your way to ensure they didn’t have any last-minute questions regarding their portion of the upcoming executive review”

An effectively accomplished transition extends the focus and provides you with the opportunity to learn more about what is happening and, far more important, why.


In general, as this conversation unfolds, you will have a series of “response options”:

  • Establishing next steps and doing most of the talking
  • Engaging with the coachee and mutually agreeing to next steps
  • Listening and allowing the coachee to determine next steps

As the coachee responds to your positioning, we would suggest that answers to the following questions relative to the FOCUS of this discussion should inform your course of action:

  • Is the coachee demonstrating the ability to effectively respond to this challenge or take advantage of this opportunity?
  • Is the coachee demonstrating the confidence, motivation and commitment to effectively respond to this challenge or take advantage of this opportunity?

Objective assessment of answers to these questions should dictate your path forward.

Next Steps

As is the case with sustaining any kind of event, behavior change and positive migration is a function of follow-up and follow-through. As the discussion winds down, ensure explicit alignment on who is to do what by when.


  1. Use the OFTEN Model to help you prepare for your next coaching opportunity.
  2. Pay particular attention to setting the appropriate tone for your discussion and presenting the FOCUS for your conversation.