3 Phrases to Use in Coaching Conversations

Good coaching is significantly shaped by your ability to ask good questions. Because coaching is more about “drawing out” than “pouring in”, it is essential that you leverage question-asking to mine for the gold inside of your team members. Jesus was a master at coaching with questions.

Obviously the questions you ask vary based on the situation, as well as the responses, you are given. However, questions are not the only ingredient in a coach’s arsenal. “Coaching Phrases” are equally important. Here are three that I find particularly helpful:

1. “Unpack That For Me”

This is one of my favorite phrases. When I’m talking with a team member, I’ll often use this phrase after they’ve shared an idea, observation, or struggle. This is a great phrase to use when the suitcase has been unlocked and you need to open it to see what’s inside. It’s a permission-giving statement that allows you to hear what the person you’re coaching is really feeling or thinking. “Unpack that for me” often provides the backstory behind the situation at hand.

2. “Help Me Understand”

This is a good statement to use when you’re trying to understand the logic behind a team member’s ideas, thoughts, or actions. I’ve found it helpful in two situations: gaining clarity and giving correction. First, “Help me understand” brings clarity to “What” situations. It helps you better understand what a person means or what they intend to do. Second, “Help me understand” introduces the need for correction in “Why” situations. Rather than saying, “Why on earth did you ____________.” A better approach is to say, “Help me understand your thoughts behind why you did ___________.” It gives the person being coached the opportunity to share their reasoning before you provide any necessary correction.

3. “Tell Me Your Options”

This is a good phrase to use after listening to a situation in need of a solution. Rather than being the answer man, use the “Tell me your options” phrase to get people to think for themselves. That’s what good coaches do. Plus, it helps the person being coached own their problems and, just as importantly, own their solutions. You might even follow up the “Tell me your options” phrase with a “What else?” question. This helps them drill down on their options and not settle for the easiest answer.

Question: What other “coaching phrases” have you found helpful?