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Business Observer Friday, Sep. 9, 2016 5 years ago

Listen first

Andrew Neitlich has coached execs on all kinds of issues. Here's how to apply his approach in your workplace.
by: Beth Luberecki Contributing Writer

Andrew Neitlich had been a consultant for six years when, as he says, “the light went on.” He realized he wasn't enjoying analyzing companies and their issues. He was more interested in helping them find ways to solve those problems or take advantage of opportunities.

So he became an executive coach and has worked with clients on everything from behavioral blind spots to strategies for engaging employees. He also went on to found and lead the Center for Executive Coaching, which has trained more than 1,000 people from places like the U.S. military, the NBA, and major companies like FedEx and Microsoft.

“The best managers coach,” he says. “And at the organizational level, coaching can be a part of any initiative. Coaching fits in beautifully with anything an organization is trying to do or change.”

Neitlich's new book, “Coach! The Crucial, Deceptively Simple Leadership Skill for Breakaway Performance,” delves into everything from the coaching process to its effectiveness. Companies can hire a coach from the outside, like Sarasota-based Neitlich, to work with employees but can also foster internally what he calls “a culture of coaching.” Here he shares some key tips for managers interested in coaching their employees.

Know when to coach. If a manager only sees one answer to a problem, that's not a coaching opportunity. “But coaching can be used when you're flexible on how things get done and even the outcome,” says Neitlich. That could be something like helping an employee increase her sales or advance in her career.

Get the green light. You can't force coaching on someone who doesn't want it. “The other person has to be coachable, meaning they're giving permission to be coached,” says Neitlich. “They have to grant permission and be open to exploring ideas. You have to find people who are open to ongoing learning, which can be hard, but those are the best employees and create the best cultures.”

Don't channel Pat Riley. “Most people associate coaching with sports coaching,” says Neitlich. “But what we're talking about here is meeting with someone who is already effective and having a creative dialogue to help them achieve their goals and be better.” So instead of making decisions or calling the plays, a good workplace coach helps employees figure out the ways to reach their potential.

Listen and ask the right questions. Neitlich says a good coach should talk 25% of the time and listen for the remaining 75%. When he does speak, it should be thought-provoking. “Every coaching session starts with a problem or opportunity,” says Neitlich. “So really good questions have voltage. They help the client think differently to come up with ideas and insights to move forward.”

Understand your audience. “In general, millennials want more feedback,” says Neitlich. “They want a manager who will coach them and help them succeed. But the way I'd coach a tough baby boomer is different than a typical millennial. Millennials want more appreciative, strengths-based coaching. But they love it and want managers who will coach them. And they want to learn how to coach, too.”

Enjoy the rewards. Managers who coach their employees to success often see big payoffs. “The manager will ultimately move up, because one of the most important things a manager can do is develop leaders,” says Neitlich. “That's what everybody wants, so anyone who can develop those folks is going to be well respected and move up. And the studies on coaching have found that one of the biggest benefits is loyalty. People who feel like they're being coached and that their manager cares about them stick around. There are also fewer conflicts, because people are able to give and take feedback.”

Consider coaching for your next step. Developing the skill inside your own office could lead to opportunities outside of it. “We have a lot of baby boomers who are getting out and retiring,” says Neitlich. “A lot of them have great experience and are saying, 'What do I do next?' If they get the right training, they can be excellent coaches. And people are going into all kinds of niches to provide coaching; they're seeing different ways to play the game.”

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