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Use Coaching To Invest In Others and Inspire Motivation

August 5, 2013 Posted by : Tim Hagen
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Invest and Motivate

We must invest NOW more than ever in our people. I spoke with a person last week who was telling me his coaching style when coaching kids in youth sports. Now I bring this up because he is also a manager at a major company and he seemed to share his philosophy for both kids and his employees at work. He said "Sometimes you just have to let them really have it" meaning at times we need to yell at people to motivate them and light a fire so to speak. I slightly smiled as he continued to speak. He stopped and said “I take it you do not agree with me"? I said "It’s not that I don’t agree with you because that’s your personal choice, rather I subscribe to a different philosophy". Notice I did not argue or immediately throw my view at him in an attempt to prove him wrong or persuade him. He stated "I would love to hear what you do". I said “would you mind if I asked you a question to allow me to share my viewpoint against what you said you were doing". He said sure. I asked him "When you are letting your kids have it or your employees at work what are you trying to do?" Now, this is a simple coaching question but one that was very effective. He said "Well (with great hesitation I might add), I guess I am trying to motivate them". I said "Interesting what do they look like or what are their facial expressions revealing after you do this"? I would also add his response revealed he immediately lacked confidence in his approach with the words he used

A defining moment!

He said "Wow, my approach is at odds with what is actually occurring". I responded with "Maybe or maybe not but I would share with you that coaching people is about giving choices. Motivation is not something we instill in people, rather a choice they must make". He agreed. Now, if you notice I NEVER once told him he was wrong but with 2 simple coaching questions I created a perspective change and once he really stopped to think about it. Weeks later he called me and shared that he was providing equal if not more "pats on the back" and said the change has been incredible. People are working hard and longer hours and with smiles on their face.

So what’s the message here? Kids and employees know for the most part when they are wrong or doing something subpar, but if that’s the ONLY time they hear from their manager it can erode their willingness to perform better. If we do not invest EQUALLY in the good things I would challenge coaches, managers, and all leader types, you have not earned the right to address the negative or constructive ones. Studies suggest motivation occurs when employees feel they are progressing in their jobs, but if managers are not engaged, or worst yet, only point out the things they do wrong, motivation can quickly become non-existent.

Suggestions Going Forward:

  1. Say thank you to specific employees NOT for their results but their effort as it relates to specific projects or work.
  2. Send thank you cards to their homes
  3. Provide "public" appreciation so others can hear and see it so they recognize the feedback with what another employee is going - this helps employees gravitate to that action or behavior.
  4. Challenge them with questions such "what do you think you could do to create even more success and how could I help you?" - imagine an employee getting this question and their perception of you!
  5. Send emails to higher up executives asking them to send an email of appreciation to an employee.


I was just asked a question by a client in regard to starting their coaching program. I asked what she meant and she said I would have no idea because there are so many things my teams need to improve. It was at that moment I realized most people think coaching is about "only" improving things when in reality the way to truly motivate and develop areas of needed improvement is to leverage what they do well.


Here is what I said to my client: "Start with the good things, those will open their minds to the areas they need to improve". Look, so many employees feel they are only told what they do wrong; therefore, if you counter this by focusing equally if not more. Employees almost get embarrassed at times with this which is a sign they may not hear it enough.


Here are suggestions of keeping your coaching positive and engaging with your employees:


  1. Focus on positive things
  2. Acknowledge them specifically
  3. Make employees you appreciate their effort in the area you are recognizing (this helps develop the mentality to keep doing what you are doing but also it helps promote effort
  4. Be creative in recognition using cards, sticky notes, emails copied to upper management, etc.

Stay focused on the good things for this opens the door to the areas people need to improve.


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About Author

Tim Hagen
Tim Hagen

Tim Hagen founded Progress Coaching, a Training Reinforcement Partner Company, in 1997. His entrepreneurial career began in college leading to positions in sales, sales management, and sales training for small and large corporations, and eventually ownership of several training companies. Tim is often a keynote speaker at companies teaching the value of coaching and conversations in the workplace. He possesses a unique combination of hands-on experience, academics, and innovative insight to solve the industry’s most common challenges specific to workplace performance. Tim holds a bachelor’s degree in Adult Education and Training from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.

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