Coaching Discussion Approach

By Pam Martin

Coaching can be defined as a technique used to guide associates and teams to achieve successful results; to help others strengthen specific knowledge/skills. The short-term goal of coaching is to help someone accomplish a task or solve a problem. The long-term goal is to develop associates to be more self-reliant.

It has been said that coaching individuals and teams is the most critical role of a manager in business today. The success of the employees, team and company depend on the coaching ability of the management team. There are many techniques, styles and approaches available for the coaching discussion. We will explore the coaching model used at Bank of America.

The Coaching Discussion Approach became a part of the leadership skills program at Bank of America in September 2000 as a vendor partner relationship with Development Dimensions International Inc. The program was to be used in all 1st line leadership communications and courses throughout the company. The program was to be a common coaching framework for managers to facilitate successful, two-way coaching discussions with their associates. The idea was to implement a consistent coaching language, create clear expectations and foster an environment where coaching happens everyday.

The Coaching Discussion approach is described as a flexible strategy used in any type of coaching discussion, regardless of purpose, complexity or number of topics. The discussion is delivered in a huddle environment - where the manager and the associate(s) come together to talk about a specific change communication, success or performance improvement issue. The approach contains key components that work together to help create a successful coaching dialogue whether it's in an "on the fly" discussion or a more formal coaching session. The Coaching Discussion Approach components are: The Five Coaching Guidelines, The Key Principles of Coaching and The Two Process Skills.

The Five Coaching Guidelines: Open, Clarify, Develop, Agree, and Close provides a flexible structure for a coaching huddle. They are also easy to adapt to the needs of any audience. Three of the guidelines: Clarify, Develop, and Agree form a cycle that can be repeated as often as necessary to meet the outcomes of the discussion.

In the Opening step the key is for the manager to clearly communicate the purpose and importance of the discussion. In the next step, Clarify, the manager presents all relevant information, issues, and concerns as well as related facts and figures. Step three, Develop, gets the associate involved by collaborating to create solutions. Actions, timelines and resources are specified in the Agreement step. Closing is a final chance to check that everyone is clear on agreements, next steps and commitments. It is also an opportune time for the manager to voice his/her confidence in the associate.

Another component of the Coaching Discussion Approach are the Key Principles of Coaching. In order for the huddle to be successful the Key Principles must be a part of the process and embedded in the discussion. The five Key Principles of Coaching are:

  • Maintain or enhance self-esteem
  • Listen and respond with empathy
  • Ask for help and encourage involvement
  • Share thoughts, feeling and rationale
  • Provide support without removing responsibility

The Five Coaching Guidelines, The Key Principles of Coaching and The Two Process Skills are depicted in the Coaching Discussion Approach (Figure 1) below.

Figure 1. Process Skills

The two Process Skills that help to ensure the success of the Coaching Discussion approach are checking for understanding and making procedural suggestions.

Checking for understanding is a way to confirm that both the coach and the associate have the same understanding of what has been discussed during the session. The most effective way to check for understanding is to summarize the information in the form of a question and then request confirmation or correction.

Making procedural suggestions is an effective way to keep the coaching discussion process on track, by identifying problems in the process itself and resolving them quickly. A good example of this technique is "We seem to have several resources available, let's narrow our options down to two."


The final key component of the Coaching Discussion Approach is the Behavioral Communication Questions. If the following questions are answered during the coaching discussion, the likelihood of the associate being willing and able to perform the agreed-upon behavior is greatly increased:

  • How is this relevant to what I do?
  • What, specifically, should I do?
  • How will I be measured, and what are the consequences?
  • What tools and support are available?
  • What's in it for me?

The coaching discussion is delivered in a "huddle" environment, with the associate and the manager coming together to talk about a specific change communication, success or performance issue. The key to the success of a huddle is two-way communications combined with open and honest dialogue.

When a team manager at Bank of America was asked what tips or advise would you give to a manager who is just beginning to use the Coaching Discussion Approach process? The team manager replied, "I have a lot of advise to give as I feel I have learned things the hard way, by doing it. I would tell them to make sure to document all the specific actions to be taken to get the desired result. Also, make sure to agree on and document specific timelines around each action. Whenever possible be prepared before going into the huddle with documentation, examples, data and/or reports." She went on to say ," I am always more confident when I feel I have all the supporting data at hand." Good advice to anyone who wants to use the Coaching Discussion Approach when facilitating a coaching huddle.

The components of the Coaching Discussion Approach provide managers the tools they need to conduct successful coaching huddles for their associates. These components, the huddle format combined with follow up and follow thru work together to provide a successful coaching program at Bank of America.

For more information on the Bank of America Coaching Discussion Approach or tips on how to prepare for a huddle visit the Bank of America Web site: Online Performance and Learning (OPAL) at


Coaching Discussion Approach: A Guide for Training Effective Teams. Bank of America. 2000.

Cook, M. (2003). Effective Coaching. McGraw Hill-Interamericana.

Nowack, Kenneth M. and Scott Wimer. Coaching for Human Performance Training and Development (1997).

The Coaching Discussion Approach. Development Dimensions International. Oakbrook. 2002.

Author Note


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