Coaching as a Strategic Development Tool for Cities and Counties

There are some great coaches that have influenced athletes over time.  You probably can think of some examples.    

In local government, you're the coach and the players are your employees.   As with all coaching, it’s the athlete who has to carry out and execute the plans.  You're not "on the field" and shouldn't be….you're on the sidelines encouraging, cheering and directing, just like a coach.   

Coaching is based on the idea that you believe the person is capable of solving their own issue.  Your goal is to help them develop a path to address a need by asking great questions.

Coaching is not a few things….

  • Coaching is not an annual review
  • Coaching is not feedback per se
  • Coaching is not being someone’s friend, although you may like the person
  • Coaching does not rely on your inspiration, but rather the person’s
  • Coaching is not directly telling someone what to do

Coaches facilitate, they don’t offer direct input per se or micro-manage.  Mainly they ask questions to get to the heart of what the person wants to change.

If someone on your team is having a hard time getting along with others, after discussing the presence of the issues (“I’ve noticed you and Sam don’t seem to get along”) you might ask, “What’s your perspective and what do you want to do about it?”

Allowing the person to create their own plan for improvement is a cornerstone of good coaching.  In other words whatever goal, deficit or challenge the employee is having, getting from where they are to where they want to be, should be a plan that is largely developed by the employee at your prompting and encouragement….with questions from you.

Here are some questions you can ask:

  • What do you think is causing you to have this issue?
  • What do you want to do to solve this issue?
  • How do you think your choices are affecting others?
  • Who on the team could you look to or talk to that might be able to help you?
  • Is there anything about your work knowledge that is causing some of this?
  • Is there an online course that you would like to take on this topic?
  • When would you like to take these actions, on what date?
  • What can I do to help you?
  • What do you think the effect would be if you were to grow in this area?
  • When can we meet again to talk about this?
  • Are you clear on what do you want to do to take the steps you’ve talked about?

For high performers on your team you may want to ask them to identify areas of their work they would like to improve upon over the next six months.    You could then ask them: 

  • What steps do you want to take to grow in this area?
  • How do you think this new knowledge will help you?
  • Where can you get more info on this topic so you can learn and grow?
  • Is there anyone here at the office with that expertise today that you can meet with?
  • How would you like for us to stay engaged on this topic?
  • When do you want to start working on this?

The key is to ask questions that encourage them to make their own plan that get to an end goal they and you want.   There is a time and a place for being highly directional and giving specific directions to employees, but you’ll find that coaching is a great way to allow others to learn to think for themselves and operate independently…and most people value that!

If you need help developing coaches on your team, let us know.  We'd be glad to help.   Contact us at [email protected]



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