A 5-Step G.U.I.D.E. to Coaching Employees

Published: Mar 14, 2022
Modified: Apr 09, 2024


As a manager, you need to do more than assign tasks and then hold your employees accountable for delivering outstanding results. To ensure successful outcomes, you need to instruct, train, motivate, and inspire the people on your team. As a manager, you’re not simply an overseer or taskmaster. You’re a coach. Coaching is an important, ongoing part of managing and improving employee performance. When you coach your employees to give their best effort, you benefit the whole team and your organization. In the process, you’ll help your people grow and achieve their potential.             

Coaching is just as essential to success in the workplace as it is in the arena of competitive sports. But, as with other managerial duties, becoming a good employee coach takes practice and planning. Using a proven framework to plan your coaching discussions is a great place to start. American Management Association (AMA), a recognized leader in professional development for individual and team success, has developed a tool to help: The AMA Guide to Coaching. 

Before you begin planning your coaching discussion, reach out to the employee. Assure them that being coached isn’t a disciplinary measure; a coaching session is separate and different from a performance appraisal. Find a mutually agreeable time, and choose a location that’s private in order to prevent interruptions. Once that’s all established and scheduled, then turn to the guide from AMA’s experts.

The AMA Guide to Coaching consists of five steps. To make them easy to remember, each step begins with a letter in the word G.U.I.D.E. Here’s a rundown:

Gather data on the employee’s performance. Be specific and clear on the details of what you would like the employee to improve or do differently. Does a certain skill need to be learned or a competency strengthened? Does some behavior, whether related to interpersonal communication or the work itself, need to be changed? Is there a problem to fix, a gap to fill, or a goal to meet?

Understand the impact of the issue. Make sure that both you and the employee understand why this particular skill-based, performance, or behavioral issue matters and needs to be addressed. Explain why the issue is important to the team and the project at hand, to the business at large, and to the employee’s immediate and future success.

Interview the employee about the issue. Be sure you know how you want to describe the issue, taking care to keep the discussion professional. Stay focused on the behavior or competency that needs to be addressed. Avoid commenting on anything personal or coming across as critical for the sake of being critical.

Develop an action plan. Have some ideas prepared for how you and the employee can reach an agreement and move forward. Will the employee need additional training? If so, will it be voluntary or mandatory? What questions will you ask to secure the employee’s cooperation and commitment to change?

Execute plan, examine progress. Finally, decide what you want to say in order to execute the plan. Have a firm objective and outcome in mind. Consider whether you’ll need to set incremental benchmarks and schedule follow-up sessions, and how the employee’s progress will be evaluated. Anticipate any objections.   

Naturally, the specifics will vary with each employee, so be flexible about adjusting your style. Think of this five-step guide as a general framework you can rely on, again and again, when setting up a coaching discussion. With a clear plan in place, you’ll be a more effective and confident coach, which will make your employees more receptive to your coaching efforts.


About AMA

American Management Association (AMA) is globally recognized as a leader in professional development. For nearly 100 years, it has helped millions of people bring about positive change in their performance in order to improve results. AMA’s learn-by-doing instructor-led methods, extensive content, and flexible learning formats are proven effective—and constantly evolve to meet the changing needs of individuals and organizations. To learn more, visit www.amanet.org.