Situational Coaching®: The Essential Next Step

Those familiar with Situational Leadership® understand that Performance Readiness® is a function of task related ability and willingness, and that ability is operationally defined as task-specific knowledge, experience and skill. They also recognize that those three dimensions are by no means equally weighted. But understanding how to perform a task is something different altogether from actually performing it.

For example, consider the difference between periodically thinking about what you want to say to another person and actually saying it. Many of us have had unpublicized day dreams that featured us paying someone we secretly admire a well-deserved compliment or challenging a bully that was making us (and everyone around us) miserable. For any number of reasons, thoughts in those circumstances far outweigh tangible actions and, as we are all well aware, actions speak so much louder than thoughts!

With that analogy as a backdrop, further consider that understanding Situational Leadership® is separate and distinct from being a results-producing, engagement enhancing, Situational Leader. Understanding the Situational Leadership® Model means you can appreciate the distinction between a follower’s potential or capability to perform and their actual ability to consistently deliver desired results. Understanding the Situational Leadership® Model means you “get” the whole notion that there is no such thing as a good or bad leadership style (they all work and they all don’t). Understanding the Situational Leadership® Model also means you realize that regardless of your natural leadership strengths (the styles you can instinctively execute), your effectiveness as a leader is a function of your ability to use the approach that is merited by the nuances of the situation and the individual you are attempting to influence (regardless of whether it is in your personal comfort zone or not).

Situational Coaching®

But with ever-increasing regularity, metrics that determine the utility of training initiatives target use and outcomes much more than learners affect and content retention. In that regard, and with an overarching goal to drive the sustainment of Situational Leadership®, we at The Center for Leadership Studies (CLS) developed a program called Situational Coaching®. This offering is exclusively designed to translate the understanding of Situational Leadership® behaviors into the successful application of those behaviors during performance-related coaching interventions. As is the case with most insightful product development, the genesis of this offering came from customers with a vested interest in training transfer and return on investment:

  • “Do you have anything that takes Situational Leadership® to the next level? When our trainees return to their jobs, they demonstrate the ability to effectively break tasks down to their lowest common denominator and accurately assess the Performance Readiness® of the individual they will be coaching. But they would benefit from additional training to practice how to adapt their leadership style, especially when they need to effectively deliver a style that doesn’t come naturally”
  • “Have you ever thought about a ‘lab course for Situational Leadership®?’ Maybe a series of challenging development and regression scenarios where learners had to work their way through the steps of the model, particularly the delivery or communication piece? Sort of a ‘leadership practicum’ with structured feedback — and plenty of it”

So, with those thoughts as the guiding principles of design, Situational Coaching® is a “hands-on” program that:

  • Is 80% practice, feedback and application of Situational Leadership® behaviors in the context of coaching
  • Refines learner abilities to ask targeted diagnostic questions to accurately assess Performance Readiness® and use the matching leadership style
  • Takes a deep dive into the execution of S1, S2, S3 or S4 coaching discussions by helping learners outline how they will:
    • OPEN the dialog (ensure the tone is consistent with the objective of the coaching)
    • Communicate a FOCUS for discussion (ideally one; certainly no more than two)
    • TRANSITION to specific observations (direct and indirect)
    • EXECUTE the conversation by using the appropriate coaching behaviors (Empower? Collaborate? Structure?)
    • Communicate specific NEXT STEPS (reflect and document agreement on what will happen — and when)

Most important, in Situational Coaching®, learners get multiple opportunities to “do!” Beyond that, they receive peer and facilitator feedback on the impact of their actions in a consequence-free setting. As a result, they take steps — behavioral and readily identifiable steps — that translate their understanding of Situational Leadership® into the real-world skills of being a Situational Leader!


In preparation for an upcoming coaching discussion:

  1. Identify a specific task and assess the Performance Readiness® of the individual being coached.
  2. Document the manner in which you would OPEN the discussion (i.e., what would you say, and how would you say it, to ensure you have set a tone that aligns with your coaching approach?).
  3. Practice that opening with a peer-coach and listen intently to the feedback provided.