Developing a Coaching Culture with Check-Ins

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Developing a Coaching Culture with Check-Ins

What if performance reviews didn’t have to be so arduous and time-consuming? 

More Videos:  After the Grid – Now What?, Leverage the Power of the Performance-Values MatrixConducting An Effective Performance Review Part I – AlignConducting An Effective Performance Review Part II – CoachConducting An Effective Performance Review Part III – Lead, The Basics of Effective Meetings, Using 360-Degree Feedback to Enhance Your Performance Management Process


Melissa Phillippi, President of Performance Culture, unpacks the concept of a coaching culture and looks at some practical steps to start developing one. The Performance Culture System creates a coaching culture with Check-ins. Check-ins are an easy way to start a conversation between a manager and employee – and keep it going.

To start, she will cover three potential check-in questions that will help you develop a coaching culture of your own!


What if performance reviews didn’t have to be so arduous and time-consuming? What if prepping for them took more like 5 – 10 minutes than an hour? What if you spent only 25% of the review conversation focused on the past, and 75% of the time focused on the future? Wouldn’t that be awesome? Well, a Coaching Culture helps you accomplish just that. And here’s the great news – if managers and employees are checking in on a regular basis, there are no surprises at performance review time, and you’re merely summing up the highlights from the year, leaving more time to focus on the future. Our goal today is to begin to unpack this concept of a coaching culture and look at some practical steps you can take to start on a road to developing one.

First, what is a coaching culture? Simply put, it’s a culture where coaching is a fundamental part of the training and development process at all levels of the organization.  The type of coaching we’re referring to does not have a negative or remedial connotation; on the contrary, it is ever-present, asking questions to help the receiver see things in a different light, and yes, correcting and providing small tweaks where necessary.

MJ and I went to the same high school – I know, pretty cool…and in our hometown, there is a sign in a local restaurant that points out that Dean Smith recognized that MJ’s weakness was ball handling – so he had MJ work harder on this. The concept of only maximizing – and praising, and evaluating – one’s strength, can truly hold back a person from reaching their fullest potential.  Coaching not only celebrates the successes, but it is courageous enough to call out and provide guidance for the weaknesses.

Feedback.  Feedback in any form other than praise is something we all sometimes dread.  We dread giving it, and we certainly dread receiving it. I think that’s why the performance review gets such a bad rap. I believe instead the problem lies with how to give feedback, and how to receive it. At Performance Culture, we ascribe to the research of authors and Harvard Law professors Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen where they outline the 3 forms of feedback: Appreciation, Coaching, Evaluation. After I read this book, it was like a light bulb went off – no wonder we hate traditional performance reviews – they’ve focused solely on the evaluation component – and completely skipped over appreciation and coaching.

How can we use the Performance Culture System to address these severely lacking components in today’s workplaces? With Check-ins. Check-ins are an easy way to start a conversation between manager and employee – and keep it going.  Once a template has been created for the employee, either manager or employee can initiate this documented conversation, which can happen after an in-person discussion, or before, or 100% digitally when in person just can’t happen.  Check out our training videos in your Learn tab, or “How To” Videos in your Help section to learn how to create check-ins if you need to know more.

Now, creating an awesome Check-in template can be as simple as adding in three questions, which we’ll review momentarily.  A best practice I want to highlight right now is to truly keep it simple, and high-level. Don’t overcomplicate the check-in with numerous questions, or granular/task-oriented questions. Check-ins are meant to be just that – a quick check-in to ensure alignment still exists relationally and with regards to goals. So here are those three questions that cover so much and help you develop a coaching culture:

What are your biggest accomplishments since our last check-in? What are you most proud of?

This question addresses the first form of feedback we discussed – appreciation.  And here’s the best part – it takes the guesswork out of knowing what to appreciate about your employee.  We all have different “appreciation languages” and in the absence of knowing my teammate’s, I’ll default to simply appreciating them the way I like to be appreciated.  But that’s an assumption I run the risk of being very wrong about. I often give an example of the employee who spent hours ensuring a vital report was complete and without error.  As her manager, if I don’t know how hard or long she worked on this report, or how proud she is of it, I might gloss over it, maybe even forgetting to say thank you, because to me it’s simply part of her job.  Over time, however, I run the risk of her feeling less and less appreciated and soon she starts to disengage and not give her all because I don’t seem to care anyway. Asking this question now allows an employee to process and clarify what it is that made them feel good about themselves for the week, and tells me what I can specifically point out and praise.

What are your key priorities for this next week/cycle?

This is a big alignment question and one that often reveals where there might be a gap in communication.  We still haven’t figured out that telepathy thing, yet as managers, we still keep acting like it works. Here’s why this question is so great:  if I ask this of my employee at the beginning of the week, and she answers, “My priorities are A, B, and C,” we might be on the same page, or I may realize that since a leadership meeting last week, we now need to work on D instead of C, and I have forgotten or simply not gotten around to informing my employee.  Now we can be in alignment from the get-go, vs. losing precious time on the wrong priorities, and we prevent frustration from building between us because of unclear expectations.

How can I help?

This one is so simple it often takes people by surprise.  But the depth it provides is amazing. First, think about the last time your manager or supervisor asked you how he or she could help you.  Most often we operate in the typical hierarchical structure where employees are meant to help managers, not the other way around.  But developing a coaching culture involves asking the employee what they need to be successful, and affording them a safe time and place to receive help.  Secondly, this question also affords a level of personal accountability. If the employee continues to answer with no help needed but starts to miss goals, then we have a framework to hold him or her accountable, since every opportunity was given to help this employee meet their goals.

Now that you have some great questions to start a Check-In, how often should you be checking in with one another? The right frequency of check-ins will vary from one manager and employee relationship to another, even within the same organization.  Some people crave more frequent feedback; others are good with a once a month setting. We do warn against going longer than once a month since relationships and clarity of expectations start to diminish over time without intentionality. Thank you for watching this Coaching Series on how to develop a coaching culture.  I hope you commit to taking your next right step right after this video.