The 5 Coaching Habits of Excellent Leaders

Excellent leaders really work to build these habits to elevate their team’s performance

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BY Lee Colan - 09 Aug 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

The poem titled, "Who am I?" by an unknown author is poignant:

I am your constant companion.

I am your greatest helper or heaviest burden.

I will push you onward or drag you down to failure.

I am completely at your command.

Half the things you do you might just as well turn over to me, and I will be able to do them quickly, correctly.

I am easily managed - you must merely be firm with me. Show me exactly how you want something done, and after a few lessons I will do it automatically.

I am the servant of all great people; and alas, of all failures as well. Those who are failures, I have made failures.

I am not a machine, though I work with all the precision of a machine plus the intelligence of a human being.

You may run me for a profit or turn me for ruin - it makes no difference to me.

Take me, train me, be firm with me, and I will place the world at your feet.

Be easy with me and I will destroy you.

Who am I?

I am habit.


Nearly half of your daily activities are habitual, for better or for worse. You don't think about them, you just do them. You have simple habits like walking where those with healthy legs do not think about putting one foot in front of the other. You also have more complex habits like driving where you likely recall a time when you pulled into your driveway after a long day at work and thought, "Oh my! How in the world did I get here?" There are also modern habits like waking up and instinctively grabbing your phone to check your email. So how do you take charge of your habits?

Start Small

The key to finishing big is to start small. Big achievements like running a marathon, introducing a new product or exceeding a hefty sales goal all start with one small step. Consistent "baby steps" lead to BIG places.

An important first step is to know yourself. The greatest kind of knowledge is self-knowledge. Your strengths can't benefit you if you don't know how to leverage them. By the same token, your greatest liability is the one you are unaware of.

Identify Your Triggers

At work, the daily whirlwind demands of the job and your team can easily push you back into poor habits, such as being reactive (vs. proactive) and can also force you to abandon what you know to be excellent coaching habits.

So, reflect on specific triggers that may prevent you from employing these five habits of excellent leaders:

  1. 1. Explaining expectations
  2. 2. Asking questions
  3. 3. Involving team
  4. 4. Measuring performance
  5. 5. Appreciating people

For example, whenever you feel stressed, you tend to tell your team what to do instead of ask for their input. Another trigger could be when meetings run long you start to feel rushed, so you do not wrap up with the 3W's (What, Who and When) to ensure the team is aligned on expectations. Maybe there are times when your team is doing well and things are going smoothly, maybe even too smoothly for you to feel comfortable, so you find something trivial the team could improve instead of appreciating its performance.

Next, write a specific action you will take to neutralize your triggers so you can consistently use excellent coaching habits.

Commit to Your Team

We tend to view a commitment to others as deeper and stronger than a commitment to ourselves, in part because it creates more public accountability. Reflect on why maintaining excellent coaching habits is important to your team members, personally and professionally. Remember that true leadership is about others, not ourselves. Every time you engage in an excellent coaching habit, you are enhancing a team member's life and work with a nice ripple effect into your business and customers.

Every time you choose to say "yes" to some other activity and forgo a positive habit, you are robbing that same team member. He/she has lost an opportunity to grow, contribute and succeed, and all the beneficiaries of that growth, contribution and success are then robbed of the positive impact he/she might have otherwise received.

You are the leadership pebble in the lake of many people's lives. So, find your own compelling purpose for making excellent coaching habits part of your daily leadership, then be bold enough to share it with your team.

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