Coaching for Staff Development

"Coaching" has become the latest buzzword on the staff-development scene. In its purest form, coaching is a developmental process carried out between the coach and a "talent" in order to promote desirable and sustainable change. The focus of coaching is on the person, the human element responsible for carrying out an organization’s mission and delivering results. A coach is capable of bringing out the full potential of the person's talent through the process of self-discovery whereby strengths are identified, options explored, challenges undertaken, and encouragement provided, thus creating the empowerment within the person's talent to move and commit him or her to higher order thinking and behavior.

The process of coaching consists of five core components of which many of us are familiar: 1. mindset, 2. relationship, 3. powerful questions, 4. listening, and 5. feedback. Much like a cook, a coach will use these components in a combination that will ultimately allow the talent to discover the beauty that has been inside the person all along:

  • Mindset: A coach’s belief that a person's talent can learn, grow, and become successful. If this element is missing, the coaching process cannot occur.
  • Relationship: The essential element to a successful coaching relationship is trust. A coach needs to be fully present and non-judgmental.
  • Powerful Questions: The art of inquiry begins with the words, "what," "how," "if," or "when," allowing for open-ended responses. The questions asked should be simple, evoke action, and used for the purpose of the talent.
  • Listening: A coach listens from the head, the heart, and the gut. These are the three levels of listening: internal, focused, and intuitive. A coach will listen to see if a talent’s words match the emotions and actions.
  • Feedback: Feedback is focused on discovering the strengths and positive attributes the talent harbors. The person should share what behaviors and skills he/she appreciates and why they matter.

These core coaching components are simple in nature and are not restricted just to those who have been trained as coaches. All of us can be "coach-like" in our everyday interactions as we engage with staff, colleagues, and/or learners. Commit to bringing out the best in others by trying out an element of coaching.


Stanier, M. (2016). The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More, & Change the Way You Lead Forever, Box of Crayons Press, Toronto, Canada.

Whitmore, J. (2010). Coaching for Performance: GROWing Human Potential and Purpose: The Principles and Practice of Coaching and Leadership, Brealey, Boston, MA.

Wilson, J. & Gislason, M. (2010). Coaching Skills for Nonprofit Managers and Leaders: Developing People to Achieve Your Mission, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, CA.

Carrie Bowler

Carrie Bowler is the Program Manager for graduate medical education within the department of laboratory medicine and pathology. Her responsibilities in this role include: accreditation oversight for the anatomical and clinical pathology residency program and 22 subspecialty fellowships, faculty development for program faculty and allied health staff, program evaluation and assessment, and curriculum builds.