Home » Implementation Division Blog: Three components of effective coaching

Implementation Division Blog: Three components of effective coaching

Blog post authors: Capri McDonald, Christina DiSalvo


What is coaching?

Coaching is a professional development opportunity designed to support individuals in successfully using or refining effective programs or practices. The term “coach” can refer to an expert, a peer, or even the coachee (the recipient of the coaching)―when that person is using a self-guided method to engage in a coaching exercise.

As outlined in “Practice-Based Coaching,” the three components of effective coaching involve:

  1. The co-creation of shared goals, strategies, and action steps between the coachee and coach―goal setting is often established through the assessment of the coachee’s needs.
  2. Engagement between the  coach and coachee through observation or self-reflection―depending on the relationship and coaching plan, this entails observing the coachee in practice or having them reflect on a practice experience.
  3. Shared reflection, feedback, and planning―the coach shares thoughts on what they observed, and the coachee considers this feedback. Together, the coach and coachee discuss strategies to support the coachee in learning more or understanding how to enhance or refine effective practices.  

Coaching is an ongoing relationship between a coach and coachee(s) that is focused on strengthening collaboration and self-efficacy. Ideally, the relationship—or partnership—between a coach and coachee will be highly communicative and collaborative. While the coachee receives support from the coach by asking questions, the coachee must also be an active thought partner with the coach in problem-solving, and be ready to receive and share feedback through reflection.

Developing a collaborative coaching partnership takes time. At the outset, the coach and coachee must work together to establisha rapport and, over time, develop shared understandings. One way to get started is by sharing professional experiences and backgrounds and establishing shared expectations around timing (Chilenski et al., 2016, p.21).  

Why is coaching important?

Coaching creates a safe space for people to reflect on their practice, ask questions, discuss problems, get support, gather feedback, and set a plan to apply new ideas. Coaching is neither evaluative nor judgmental.

What should be considered when putting coaching into practice?

When providing support to an individual through coaching, practice the following:

  1. When creating shared goals, strategies, and action steps, be sure to listen to the coachee to gauge needs and ask clarifying questions to fully understand context.
  2. As you observe the coachee in action, keep the co-created goals in mind and let them guide you in how you gather information to share with the coachee.
  3. When debriefing after observation, use reflection questions to make sure the coachee identifies successes not just challenges. For example, ask, “What are two things you did well?” If the coachee is unable to identify something positive, offer behavioral feedback such as, “I heard you say ____, it seemed like ____.” Next, shift to using reflective questioning to engage your coachee in continuous learning by asking something like, “What is one thing you might do differently next time to address _____________?”

Once your coachee has time to reflect and do some initial self-directed brainstorming, you can offer feedback on strategies they may want to consider (focus on core component activities, resources, values, and principles).

Follow your feedback with an analysis reflection question such as, “What are your thoughts about that idea?” or “How would that work for you?” And, finally, to address future planning, prompt your coachee to think about steps they intend to take in similar interactions.   

What does coaching look like in practice?

As part of the NC Triple P support system, the Impact Center’s goal is to support local leaders’ and partners’ development of resources, abilities, and performance to sustain the successful scale-up of Triple P. To enhance our external support, we regularly engage in bi-monthly practice coaching sessions to:

  • increase support practices demonstrating a commitment to our values and principles and using core practice components;
  • increase confidence and competence in applying practices in diverse contexts; and
  • increase capacity to use a coaching approach with others.  

Our team utilizes a case conceptualization template to present a site support situation that:

  • identifies site support strengths and challenges;
  • reflects on the support given to date and hypothesizes future support provision; and
  • requests peer-to-peer feedback on ways to enhance site support.

Final thoughts on coaching

As mentioned earlier, coaching is an ongoing partnership that takes time and communication to develop. It’s important to remember that, at its core, coaching is centered on people learning from each other and achieving shared goals. To ensure success, remember to:

  • Assume everyone can meet their own needs with appropriate support.
  • Use open-ended, reflective questions to learn more about each person’s expertise.
  • Ask one question at a time and wait before asking clarifying questions.
  • Provide opportunities for people to brainstorm and share ideas before offering your own.
  • The person receiving coaching is the decision maker and should be the one to select strategies.
  • End every interaction with a concrete, straightforward plan for what each person will do.

Works Cited
Chilenski, S. M., Perkins, D., Olson, J., Hoffman, L., Feinberg, M., Greenberg, M., . . . Spoth, R. (2016). The power of a collaborative relationship between technical assistance providers and community prevention teams: A correlational and longitudinal study. Eval Program Plann, 19-29.
Practice-Based Coaching. (2022, October 27). Retrieved from Early Childhood Learning & Knowledge Center: https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/professional-development/article/practice-based-coaching-pbc