Leading Through Coaching: How Effective Leaders Develop Others

Most organizations can benefit from stability and strength, particularly in today’s ever-changing and uncertain economic and talent landscape. One of the best ways to ensure talent stability and strength is by developing a continuous cycle of top talent under development for positions along the management chain and in other key roles. 

There is no one better positioned than executive leaders to help employees develop their skills, performance, and growth. As experienced, skilled members of the organization, leaders have unique insights into how their employees can be more successful in their current job and future roles. As John Quincy Adams so powerfully said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.”

Yet, according to research from Bersin by Deloitte, only 44% of leaders in organizations build talent for competitive advantage – despite the fact that leader coaching and developing others has been shown to predict an employee’s satisfaction at work, job performance, and commitment to the organization. As an executive and leader, there is little question as to the importance of strengthening your capacity and competencies to coach and develop others.

What Does it Mean to Coach & Develop Others?

At XBInsight, we’ve spent 20 years analyzing assessment data on hundreds of leaders across 50 industries to uncover what it means, and what it takes, to coach and develop others with great proficiency. 

Leaders who excel at coaching and developing others generally succeed at helping others identify and work toward both personal growth and organizational goals. They are highly accessible to others for assistance and support, providing both positive and corrective individualized feedback while expressing positive expectations and encouragement at every step. 

Key behaviors and skills when coaching and developing others include:


  • Helps employees identify appropriate career goals and offers support towards those goals.
  • Being accessible to employees for coaching.
  • Sharing expertise and experiences with others.
  • Turning mistakes into learning opportunities.
  • Listening effectively and empathetically to employees.
  • Allowing employees to devise their own actions and strategies.
  • Regularly providing specific, objective, and timely performance feedback. 


  • Encouraging the growth and development of others and fostering a culture of learning.
  • Helping others learn job skills.
  • Identifying competency gaps or potential growth areas and providing suggestions/goals for individual development.
  • Supporting employee participation in development activities. 
  • Using a range of strategies to develop employees, such as workshops, reading materials, one-on-one discussions, skills and training courses, etc. 
  • Seeking out new development opportunities for employees to support their goals and aspirations, such as stretch roles, challenging assignments, or potential future roles to strive for, etc. 

Strengthening Your Coaching & Developing Others Competency.

As executives and leaders assess their investment in, and ability to, coach and develop others in their roles, begin by asking the following questions:

  • How many employees have I actively helped develop for roles with increased responsibility? 
  • Have I formalized a plan for my employee’s long-term development?
  • Can I have an open discussion about my employees’ goals and ambitions?
  • How much time do I spend on staff training and development presentations, discussions, coaching, etc.?
  • Who am I working with to help me further develop others in my company and my own leadership skills?

As you identify areas to improve and strengthen when it comes to coaching and developing your employees and teams, there are several impactful strategies to build your competency in this area. 

Start with Honest, Open Conversations.

Effective coaching conversations are a time for honest and direct communication between the leader and the employee. Using open-ended questions can lead to great conversations and ensure you understand the goals and motivations of your employee. Use these discussions to uncover any roadblocks or challenges they are facing in reaching their development or performance goals, gain insight into their values and priorities, and guide them to uncover answers for themselves. 

Remember, not all employees may strive to move upward in the organization. For employees who wish to remain and develop in their current roles, identify strategies and opportunities to help them make the most of their contribution and employee experience. 

Develop an Actionable Plan.

Based on the employee’s ambitions and needs, help them set specific goals, benchmarks, and timeframes for measuring and gauging their development progress. It’s important that the goals are not only specific and measurable but are also achievable and realistic. Provide challenges or stretch assignments outside the employee’s comfort zone, offering encouragement and support when needed. 

Lastly, be sure to set regular check-ins to ensure your employee is staying on track at an acceptable rate. 

Make Time for Ongoing Coaching & Development.

Leaders who are exceptional at coaching and developing others recognize that spending more time in these areas will yield better, long-term results than spending time fixing mistakes or doing the work for employees who are struggling. Step back and allow employees to exercise and experiment with their newly acquired skills or improved skills, giving them the necessary latitude to learn safely from mistakes and successes. Regular, consistent one-on-one meetings with direct reports are critical to drive progress, monitor results, and identify areas for further development. 

Consider Engaging a Coach for Yourself. 

Being a leader or senior executive doesn’t necessarily mean you have mastered the ability to effectively coach and develop others – yet it’s a critical component of exceptional leadership. Leaders need coaches too. If you’re looking for help in developing your collaboration skills, an executive coach is a great place to start. Executive coaches will help you examine your current competency levels, identify areas to develop, give you the tools you need, and hold you accountable for your own success.

Leaders Skilled in Developing Others. 

For C-suite and senior executives, recognizing the importance of continual development of talent to the future of the organization is crucial. The ability to cultivate leaders from the top talent among their workforce and transform average performers into highly effective producers is the cornerstone of successful leadership and business outcomes, particularly in today’s complex landscape.