Key Takeaways:

  • Treat coaching as continuous, not episodic events
  • Leverage small, everyday moments for coaching
  • Seize opportunities to offer observations, questions, encouragement
  • ‘See’ mistakes, needs, hesitations as chances to ‘say’ something impactful
  • Effective leaders consistently ‘sprinkle in’ coaching

See Something – Say Something!

While passing through airport security during a recent business trip, I looked up to see a poster featuring TSA’s request that if travelers see something, they should say something. It struck me that this is excellent advice for air safety—but also for coaching.

Too frequently, leaders treat coaching as a discrete activity that they plan for, schedule, and conduct in a formal fashion. It becomes episodic—structured points in time when employees are shown focused attention during which they are encouraged to grow, stretch, and improve.

The problem is that employees crave that attention all year long. And there are countless times during a normal workday when employees might be right on the verge of developmental or performance breakthroughs… if only someone were to offer an observation, question, or encouragement.

So, as leaders, we must rethink what coaching is and how it operates to support optimal results.

Coaching is no longer the… Coaching is the…
Semi-annual trip to the dentist Brushing after each meal
Once-a-year spring cleaning Daily dusting and tidying up
Big sit-down feast Snacking for day-long energy

Employees (and businesses) face conditions that are dynamic and disruptive. Flourishing in this environment demands frequent touch points, up-to-the-minute information and perspectives, and ever-present versus episodic coaching. And that’s where ‘see something—say something’ fits in.

Leaders who are attuned to the environment—who connect with their people and are sensitized to what’s happening around them—see countless opportunities to offer in-the-moment coaching every day. They seize seemingly mundane and meaningless moments to drive insights, motivation, action, and change.

They see a mistake as an opportunity to say, “what did you learn from that?”

They see an evolving customer need as an opportunity to say, “what skills will help you exceed those expectations?”

They see hesitation when an employee takes on a new task as an opportunity to say, “how do you see this fitting into the big picture?”

They see a dip in motivation as an opportunity to say, “what would bring more energy and joy to your work?”

Effective leaders don’t ‘batch’ their coaching. They sprinkle it in generously day-in and day-out. They seize what others might gloss over as insignificant. They know that leveraging small openings over time will lead to big changes.

Examples of Everyday Coaching Opportunities

  • You see an employee struggling with a task – say “What approach are you taking? Here’s an alternative way to think about it.”
  • You notice an employee going above and beyond – say “I noticed your exceptional effort on that project. What motivated you?”
  • You overhear an employee venting frustration – say “It seems you’re feeling stuck. How can I support you through this challenge?”
  • You witness an employee procrastinating – say “What’s keeping you from diving into that assignment? Let’s get you unstuck.”

5 Tips for Making Coaching a Habit

  1. Keep a small notebook to jot down coaching observations throughout the day
  2. Set reminders to have coaching conversations
  3. Make coaching a recurring team meeting agenda item
  4. Share your commitment to continuous coaching with employees
  5. Ask others to point out when you miss coaching opportunities

Coaching is About Growth, Not Criticism

Continuous coaching works because the focus is on growth, learning and improvement – not criticism or judgement. Leaders should approach it with curiosity, empathy and trust.

The goal is to unlock employees’ motivation and potential by helping them:

  • Build self-awareness
  • Gain new perspectives
  • Identify strengths and development areas
  • Brainstorm solutions to obstacles
  • Reinforce positive behaviors

This creates a culture of feedback, accountability and constant refinement. Employees see coaching as supportive guidance tailored to their success.

‘See something – say something’ is a way to contribute to air safety. But it’s also a strategy for allowing one’s leadership to take flight.

So, what do you see around you? And what are you going to say?