Employee Engagement Series: One-on-One Coaching

One-on-One Coaching

By: Susan Walsh, SHRM-SCP

As the fourth blog in a series on employee engagement, I previously discussed the importance and value of an intentional employee engagement strategy as a means of combating the negative effects of the Great Resignation. HR leaders that are making headway in this area are moving their focus from human capital management to creating a more human employee experience. This includes a more personal experience for each employee, one where intentional, genuine interactions are designed to help an employee grow and thrive in the work environment. An employee’s manager is one of the most influential factors in creating this positive, meaningful experience. According to a study published by the International Federation of Coaching, 80% of people who participate in coaching sessions report increased self-confidence, and over 70% benefit from improved work performance, relationships, and more effective communication skills.


One definition of coaching is unlocking an individual’s potential to maximize their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them. This requires that managers employ several skills and perspectives:

  1. Listen to understand. This takes active listening to a new level. Listen for:
    • Hopes and aspirations
    • Strengths and talents
    • Inconsistencies
    • Values and passions
    • What’s missing?
  2. Focus on the now. Be 100% present during a coaching session. A coach needs to ask themselves: At this moment, how can I best serve the person I’m coaching?
  3. Communicate for the purpose of serving the employee. Speak to employees as if they are fully capable and responsible adults.


A few things coaching is not:

  • An opportunity to show the employee how much you know or go on about your experience. It’s not about you, the manager
  • A one-and-done meeting. Coaching is a process with clearly defined roles and required skills.
  • A time to bring up the poor performance or disciplinary issues. This is about maximizing an employee’s potential.


Model for Coaching

There are a variety of models that managers can use to facilitate a one-on-one coaching session. A widely used model for coaching is the GROW model.


Goal – a desired state or objective

Reality – the current situation

Options – ways to bridge the gap between the current and desired state

Will – plans for a way forward


A model helps the coach keep the conversation meaningful and on track. A highly skilled coach has the ability to stay in the present moment and allow the outcome of the questions to determine the flow of the coaching session. This takes many years of practice and a high degree of questioning and listening skills. When a manager begins to learn coaching skills, a model might be necessary to help them structure the conversation and get the most from the dialogue. A simple model, like GROW, provides such guidance.

Below are some sample questions for each step of the model. A coach needs to tailor these questions to his/her own “voice” so the interaction is genuine and not stilted.



– What do you want to achieve in this session?

– Is there anything more you want to get out of this session?

– What areas do you want to work on?

– What would be an indicator of time well spent together?



– What knowledge/skills/abilities do you have that will help you reach your goal?

– What is working well for you now?

– What is getting in your way of success?

– What skills/behaviors do you need to develop to reach your goal?

– What is happening now? Exactly what is happening now?



– Have you experienced anything similar before? How did you handle it?

– Do you know others that have experienced something similar?

– What is your ideal outcome?

– What would you tell your friend or colleague if he/she asked you the same question?

– What could you do? What else could you do?



– What is one small step you can take now? How motivated are you to do it?

– What will you do? Precisely what actions will you take?

– What steps will you take to ensure your success?


Tip & Tricks

  • View coaching as an integral role of a manager.
  • Coach your team from a place of encouragement.
  • Catch people doing something right.
  • Identify what you like about each individual on your team.
  • Find their strengths, don’t fix their weaknesses.
  • Begin every conversation by reminding people who they are.


There is nothing quite like coaching when it comes to guiding employees to perform at their best. Employees get re-energized about their work, are accountable for their performance, and thrive in their roles. Employees often find hidden talents, dust off past skills, and make great strides in their level of contribution. If done correctly, coaching is one of the most valuable tools a manager has at his/her fingertips.

For more information on specific coaching models:


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