The 3 Worst Phrases a Leader Can Utter When Trying to Coach the Team by Eddy Ricci


Coaching is an inherent aspect of leadership that, done well, is of immense benefit but, done poorly, can turn problems into crisis. Whether you are managing a large organization with hundreds of employees or an the CEO of startup trying to inspire a small team, you must never underestimate the power of the words we use during “coaching” opportunities.

The last thing leaders can afford to do is disconnect themselves from their team-members when there is an opportunity for improvement. To gain the most benefit from coaching opportunities usually requires little more than adding simple re-phrasing techniques to your “conversation toolbox.” Here are three default phrases that can become relationship dis-connectors and alternative approaches that inspire your team.

“Why didn’t you…?”

Nobody wants to listen to a leader who kicks off a meeting with “why didn’t you…”. Many managers and leaders will use this phrase without considering the effect on the team members or realizing it will cause a disconnection of focus.

Starting with “why didn’t you?” puts the focus on the excuse or rationalization of the past situation and what the present consequences are going to be when the better focus is improving the employee’s condition and self-realization for future success. Plus, these conversations become redundant for the leader, since encouraging excuses instead of improvement means you will have them frequently!

Instead of being the broken record of saying, “Why didn’t you…?” use the phrase “What will help you better achieve this next time?” After they state whatever they need to happen, make sure you get a confirmation statement by asking, “So if you had _____________, then this result will happen?” That will allow everyone to understand the root cause of the issue.

If this situation reoccurs after checking in, (or if the request in the previous question doesn’t carry any weight), then you want to test the priority level of the result for this employee. Test the importance of the result to the person by simply asking, “How important is this result to you and your career?” By phrasing it this way, the employee will realize they need to make some changes. If they don’t, it will become evident that you need to make some changes in either connecting the results to the big picture or, unhappily, to your personnel!

“You should have…”

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