Coaching Counts Tools and Resources

...solve thorny business challenges in the time it takes to drink a cup of tea


Your people do more and achieve more when you use a few proven coaching skills...

As a business owner or manager, or as a leader of any team, your responsibilities include improving the performance of your team and helping your team succeed.

If your team improves, then your business improves…

So why is it that, in business, coaching is viewed as something you may like to do at some point, rather than something you should do right now?

In sport, we all know how important good coaches are to the success of any sports team or sportsperson. Alex Ferguson, Ivan Lendl, Dave Brailsford, Clive Woodward and many more have been lauded with praise for their achievements as coaches. A good coach is a major part of an athlete’s or team’s success - they can take on legendary status. Could you?

So, ask yourself this one question:


How much time do I allocate to developing my coaching skills and improving the skills of my team?

STOP thinking coaching is something other people do to help you and your team

START thinking that you are responsible for improving your coaching skills and thus strengthen your team’s skills, self-belief and results

The one ‘BREAKTHROUGH QUESTION’ you must ask to help yourself…


How much time do I allocate to developing my coaching skills and improving the skills of my team?

It pays to think about why it is important to developing your own coaching skills to improve the skills of your team.

Peter Drucker, a legendary business leader, thought-leader and coach, comments on getting the best out of your people in his landmark book, Management Challenges of the 21st Century:

“Altogether, an increasing number of people who are full-time employees must be managed as if they were volunteers. They are paid, to be sure. But...[we] have known for fifty years that money alone does not motivate to perform...

What motivates – and especially what motivates knowledge workers – is the same as what motivates volunteers.

Volunteers, we know, get more satisfaction from their work than paid employees, precisely because they do not get a pay cheque.”

Is it any wonder that 21st century coaching techniques get more from people than a hierarchical ‘command and control’ (I follow the rules and do what I’m told – 20th century) approach?

Coaching skills work with volunteers because they generate greater internal (intrinsic) motivation, enthusiasm and zeal for the work they do and the results they get. Coaching questions make such a big difference with volunteers. Using these same coaching skills with your paid employees will bring dividends too.

A coaching framework around which to ask your coaching questions will help you to become better at helping your people achieve their ambitions and therefore the ambitions of your business. Grow your people and you grow your business; fail to grow your people and your business stutters and stalls.

However, the development of your team is a pipe dream unless you make time to develop your own coaching skills first.

How can you learn or improve the simple skills of coaching to help your team be more successful?

It’s crucial to the future of your business that you make time for this.

2.7 million employee surveys can't be wrong!

The global survey company, Gallup, has conducted in excess of 2.7 million employee surveys across more than 50 diverse industries.

Gallup’s massive study is just one of many that categorically shows how the engagement of your people in their work profoundly impacts the results you achieve. The Gallup survey shows that high-engagement businesses make 23% more profit than those with low employee engagement.

Gallup’s 2.7 million surveys use 12 questions to assess the level of engagement across a team (plus a catch-all question about being satisfied with your place of work).

Out of the 12, the 7 questions highlighted below are connected to coaching skills and are influenced directly by the coaching questions you ask. 

Q01. I know what is expected of me at work.

Q02. I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right.

Q03. At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.

Q04. In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.

Q05. My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.

Q06. There is someone at work who encourages my development.

Q07. At work, my opinions seem to count.

Q08. The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important.

Q09. My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work.

Q10. I have a best friend at work.

Q11. In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.

Q12. This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow

It could be argued that some of the other questions are also indirectly impacted by the coaching questions you ask of your team.

Source:  Gallup’s Q12®questions: The Relationship Between Engagement at Work and Organizational Outcomes – 2020 Q12® Meta-Analysis: 10th Edition.

If engagement matters, how does coaching help? This short story signposts good coaching at work:

Sarah was far from engaged.

She was struggling to apply herself fully to her role and to her responsibilities at work.

She was even questioning whether her career was on track. She was uncertain about her future, what options to consider and what to do next. She was feeling a tad demoralised, somewhat disengaged.

Thankfully, Sarah’s manager arranged a conversation with another leader in the business, one with a reputation for coaching and bringing out the best in people. And after a coaching conversation that lasted no more than an hour, Sarah gained clarity and a way forward.

Knowing what she now needed to do to perform at her best, she was able to take responsibility for the decisions and actions required. Sarah was ready to apply herself with renewed energy to her role, her career and her future.

Thanks to good coaching, she was feeling much more in control of her destiny, much more confident about what she needed to do, with a greater belief that she was on the right track. Sarah was re-engaged.

This might sound too good to be true – but coaching skills are an important part of a leader and manager’s tool kit. Better coaching questions clearly get better engagement and better results.

Grow your people - Framework 1

Tim Gallwey (a coach who has achieved legendary status) has some insights around the simple but powerful ‘Inner Game Equation’.

You can ask questions around these 3 elements:

(P) Performance = (p) potential – (i) interference

When you ask questions that focus on improving performance (P), by growing or making more of existing potential (p) and by decreasing interference (i), you will grow your people’s capabilities and results.

It’s been said that if you don’t GROW your people, you won’t GROW your business. So, what questions do you ask around the three elements of Framework 1?

Use these 4 stages of the GROW model:

  • GOAL:                  What do you want (long term)?
  • REALITY:              Where are you now?
  • OPTIONS:            What could you do?
  • WILL:                   What will you do?

“I must stress that GROW has little value without the context of awareness and responsibility and the intention and skill to generate them through active listening and powerful questions”

Sir John Whitmore  - Coaching for Performance

This classic framework for asking great questions in a prescribed running order is outlined in Sir John Whitmore’s practical and valuable book, Coaching for Performance, possibly the most referenced book in the world of coaching.

Grow your people - Framework 2

For more than 25 years and across 40 countries, Andy Gilbert and his team at Go M.A.D. (Make A Difference) Thinking have been training trainers in organisations such as the NHS and Royal & Sun Alliance.

Back in 1998, Andy set up a research project to answer the following question:

“What is the simplest way of explaining the success process that people naturally use when making a difference?”

From this emerged a practical and easy-to-understand framework for success, made up of key principles that link together and provide a helpful questioning framework.

Make a Difference (M.A.D.) Triangles

The first triangle focuses your questions on ‘softer’ internal issues – the development of self.

The second triangle focuses questioning on the more tangible elements that are easier to see, touch and substantiate.

These 2 triangles form part of the 7-part coaching framework fully explained in Andy Gilbert and Ian Chakravorty’s brilliant book, Go MAD about Coaching.

Here is the full Go MAD 7-part coaching framework:

Below are some outstanding coaching question examples. All 40 questions are taken from the book Go MAD About Coaching – it’s well worth a read.

The Go MAD® 40 question coaching script – how serious are you about making a difference?

If you are serious about developing your ability to make a difference, then get a pen and paper ready. If you spend 30-40 minutes writing your answers to each question, you will improve your ability to make a difference.

  1. What specifically do you want to achieve? (i.e., what difference do you want to make?)
  2. What is your precise measure of success? (i.e., how will you know when you have achieved your goal?)
  3. What exact date will you achieve this by?
  4. How achievable do you believe this goal to be? (Note: on a scale of 1 (low) to 10 (high) if you assess it to be 5 or less, then redefine the goal to make it more achievable.)
  5. How relevant is this goal to what is important to you in life? (i.e., check it doesn’t conflict with any other priorities.)
  6. What are the reasons why you want to make this difference?
  7. How strong is your motivation to achieve your defined goal? (Note: if it is not strong then choose something else to make a difference about.)
  8. What possible things do you need to consider in order to make the difference you desire? (Note: start making a list of possibilities.)
  9. What resources do you possibly require?
  10. What possible help do you need?
  11. Who could possibly help you?
  12. How could they possibly help you?
  13. What other possibilities do you need to consider? (Note: include possible obstacles, risks and ways of overcoming them. Be creative in your thinking and remember you are only listing ideas – not evaluating them.)
  14. Who else could possibly help?
  15. What could you possibly gain from involving others?
  16. How could you influence others to help you?
  17. What might be the most effective way of persuading them?
  18. What are the possible implications?
  19. Who else could you involve? (Note: think laterally about how and where you can access people that have knowledge/skills but don’t even know you!)
  20. What else could you possibly do that might be helpful in achieving your goal? (Note: keep adding to your list.)
  21. What else?
  22. Which of the possibilities are your priorities? (i.e., those that are most important to the achievement of your goal.)
  23. What is your top priority?
  24. What areas need to be broken down into smaller tasks?
  25. When do these need to be achieved by? (Note: convert your priority actions into specific, measurable, time-bound goals.)
  26. How will you ensure you set aside sufficient time to work on achieving your subgoal priorities? (Note: actually plan these activities into your diary by blocking out time.)
  27. Who will you choose to involve?
  28. How will you involve them and obtain their commitment?
  29. By when? (Note: plan in the time to do it.)
  30. How strong is your self-belief that your goal is achievable?
  31. What potential obstacles are you likely to encounter?
  32. What will be your greatest challenge in achieving this goal?
  33. What can you do to further develop your self-belief?
  34. How strong is your reason why you want to make this difference?
  35. What choices have you got to make?
  36. How accountable are you prepared to be for making it happen?
  37. How willing are you to take personal responsibility? (i.e. without blaming anyone/anything) for making the difference you say you want to make?
  38. How will you review and measure your results?
  39. How will you celebrate your success?
  40. When are you going to start to take action?

Notice, as you complete this exercise, which questions cause you to think more deeply. The key is to understand the importance of the questions and the order. By using this Go MAD framework you will discover ways of asking the right questions at the right time.

NB: This is not a prescriptive set of questions, just an example set, to demonstrate what good coaching questions can look like.

The Performance Curve – abbreviated from Coaching for Performance by Sir John Whitmore

If you’re looking at this it’s because you’re taking coaching skills seriously. Therefore we HIGHLY recommend you get a copy of Sir John Whitmore’s profoundly insightful and landmark book, Coaching for Performance.

Can you see your leadership and management style or the way your team behaves in the 4 categories listed along the bottom of the performance curve? For more on moving towards less interference, greater potential and greater performance, check out Whitmore’s book in detail.

High-quality questions under the microscope

CLOSED QUESTION: Are you watching the ball?

OPEN QUESTION: Why aren’t you watching the ball?

Neither of these two questions are good coaching questions. The closed question elicits a single-word answer, and the open question could produce a defensive or emotionally charged response.  These types of responses can stall, limit or undermine a healthy coaching conversation.

Consider the effect of more useful, open questions as suggested in Sir John Whitmore’s landmark book on coaching:

  • Which way is the ball spinning as it comes toward you?
  • How high is it this time as it crosses the net?
  • Does it spin faster or slower after it bounces, this time, each time?
  • How far is it from your opponent when you first see which way it is spinning?

Whitmore goes on to explain the four important effects in these types of questions:

  • This type of question compels the player to watch the ball. It is not possible to answer the question unless they do that.
  • The player will have to focus to a higher order than normal to give the accurate answer the question demands, providing a higher quality of input.
  • The answers sought are descriptive, not judgmental, so there is no risk of descent into self-criticism or damage to self-esteem.
  • There is the benefit of a feedback loop for the coach, who is able to verify the accuracy of the player’s answer and therefore the quality of concentration.

Powerful questions promote proactive, focused thought, attention and observation by your team member (not you).

The books and other resources

Go MAD About Coaching

Andy Gilbert and Ian Chakravorty

"Whether you’re new to coaching or wishing to extend your skills, you will gain so much from applying the content of this practical book.” – Bob Mendelsohn, Group Chief Executive, Royal & Sun Alliance.

Coaching for Performance

Sir John Whitmore

"This book is about more than coaching; it is undoubtedly a valuable twenty-first-century strategic organizational development resource. The insights, frameworks and resources provided can help ensure organizations manifest the ROI that may be realized from coaching-informed interventions.” – Vyla Rollins, Executive Director, London Business School Leadership Institute.

Other resources:

Please watch Andy Gilbert’s video, The Art of Making a Difference. Andy is the Managing Director of Go MAD Thinking and developer of the Go M.A.D. ® (Make A Difference) Thinking System, which is now used as a coaching framework by hundreds of thousands of people in 40 countries across the world. Andy has written over 20 books and presented over 200 audio and video programs relating to leadership, change and coaching.

Here is a 17-minute video that provides quite a simple description of how he arrived at the M.A.D. framework for coaching and change.

Watch The Art of Making a Difference here

And if you like this and fancy a more in-depth look at the Go M.A.D. ® (Make A Difference) way of doing things, then this is for you – it’s longer and more of an interview than a talk, but there are some brilliant insights.

Watch Go and Make a Difference, with Andy Gilbert, here

And for more please watch this presentation by Sir John Whitmore. It’s from 2011 (excuse the sound quaility and pink curtain!) but the principles that he discusses remain the same today. It is from the Spirit of Coaching Conference in London.

John delivers a very measured speech, addressing the importance of coaching for personal development, what holds businesses back from taking coaching seriously, and the benefits when they do.

There is a short but brilliant role-play demonstrating coaching versus instruction and a question and answer session at the end which is fascinating.

It’s 58 minutes long, but if you are serious about coaching, it’s a must-watch.

Watch Sir John Whitmore's presentation here


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