5 Topics for Coaching Conversations & Strategies for Effective Employee Coaching

The core of any effective employee development program is regular, one-on-one coaching conversations with managers. There are a number of coaching styles and personalities out there, and managers need to develop an approach that is authentic to them.

At the same time, employee coaching is a skill that can be improved and there are certain principles that can set the framework for a positive teaching moment.

[bctt tweet=”Employee coaching is a skill that can be improved.” username=”@reflektive”]

The Need for Coaching

The first thing that managers need to remember is that employees want to be coached. A survey found that 85% of millennial employees say they would feel more confident if managers engaged in performance-related conversations more frequently. 70% felt that this process could help them “learn and grow.”

Managers shouldn’t shy away from regular check-ins and constructive feedback. They should embrace these conversations as opportunities to help individuals and teams improve.

SEE ALSO: The Ultimate Guide to One-on-Ones

Topics for Coaching Conversations

Topics that are frequently the basis for manager-employee coaching conversations include:

  • Onboarding
  • Time management
  • Missed deadlines
  • Overworked or overwhelmed employees
  • Mistakes with clients
  • Prioritizing tasks
  • Troubleshooting or problem-solving
  • Goal-setting
  • Identifying obstacles
  • Inefficient processes
  • Employee disengagement
  • Declining performance
  • Inappropriate/negative/rude behavior
  • Conflict resolution
  • Lack of organization

The Coach Approach

Once a manager has identified the topic that they want to discuss with an employee, the real teaching begins.

While no two conversations will be exactly the same, there’s a simple secret to ensure coaching conversations are positive and effective: Ask questions.

When people feel they’re being chastised or lectured, they tend to resist or close themselves off to feedback. Asking questions helps the employee discover new ideas and solutions themselves, giving them a sense of ownership, rather than being told what to do.

[bctt tweet=”To coach effectively, managers need to know which questions to ask.” username=”@reflektive”]

But to be effectively guide the conversation, the manager also needs to know which questions to ask. The GROW model is a popular technique for structuring coaching conversations. GROW stands for: Goal, Current Reality, Options, and Way Forward.

The Goal step identifies the purpose of the conversation and what the employee hopes to achieve. The Current Reality provides a context for the conversation and aligns the manager and employee on the situation. Step three, Options, encourages the employee to consider different solutions to the problem, while step four, the Way Forward, establishes a plan of action following the conversation.

Examples of questions during each step:


  • What’s your ideal outcome in this situation?
  • What result are you hoping to achieve?
  • Why are you hoping to achieve this result?

Current Reality

  • How would you describe the situation?
  • How severe is the situation, on a scale of one to ten?
  • What steps have you already taken? What have you already tried?


  • How have you handled similar situations in the past? And what was the result?
  • How would you handle the situation if I wasn’t here?
  • How would you assess the situation if you were removed from it? What advice would you give to someone in your shoes?
  • What do you think is the strongest solution?

Way Forward

  • What steps can you take today/this week to resolve the problem?
  • What obstacles can you identify?
  • How can we eliminate those obstacles?
  • Who else on the team might be able to help?
  • How can I help you? What resources do you need?
  • When can we touch base to follow up?