The Dentist Chair and Real-Time Coaching

So yesterday I’m sitting in the dentist chair getting a crown replaced when I hear an office worker talking to somebody on the phone–in a bit of a direct tone. As they’re talking, my dentist quietly mumbles something under his breath–faint enough that I couldn’t understand him. I wasn’t quite sure what was going on until a few minutes later when my dentist left the room and began talking to this worker. In a kind, calm, but direct manner, he expressed that the way this employee addressed the individual on the phone could have been handled in a bit more sensitive manner. As I thought about the situation, I have to admit, I admired my dentist’s “real-time coaching.” He took A.I.M. at his employee’s potential: He Assessed her performance, provided helpful Insight, and Motivated her to do better. And all of this happened with respect.


Too often, after a team member makes a mistake, we grumble about the issue but do nothing to address it. As time goes by, more problems occur and our frustration continues to mount. If we’re not careful, we’ll reach a tipping point and an emotional world war three breaks out as we unleash six months of disappointment over a team member’s performance. What’s the solution? Real-time coaching. When a leader observes an issue or a mistake, privately pull the individual aside and help them understand what they did, the appropriate way to address the problem, and offer the encouragement to improve. This instant, respectful feedback–or coaching in real time–is much more effective and provides a meaningful learning opportunity. The team member is usually much more receptive to the approach as well.

Questions: How have you practiced real-time coaching? How have you benefited from real-time coaching?