The Weekly Coaching Conversation by Brian Souza


The Weekly Coaching Conversation by Brian Souza

Read the summary below and get the key insights in just 10 minutes!



[text_block style=”style_1.png” align=”left” font_font=”Raleway”]

Great coaches lead the most productive corporate work teams. These special managers guide their team members to superior performance by conducting regular “coaching conversations” and consistently providing developmental feedback. Drawing from more than five years of research involving 2,000 managers and employees, performance improvement specialist Brian Souza teaches leaders how to engage in regular, constructive discussions with their team members. He believes managers can consistently get more out of their teams if they adopt the right approach. Souza uses a popular business book device – the fable – to create two entertaining, recognizable characters who convey his ideas in a readable, instructive way. All words of wisdom – and silliness – come from the characters, not the author’s direct instruction. getAbstract recommends Souza’s pragmatic advice to aspiring leaders, newly promoted managers and experienced executives – in short, any leader who seeks to elevate team performance.


In this summary, you will learn

  • What the four types of managers are,
  • Why the “Coach” is the ideal manager,
  • How coaches elicit maximum team performance and
  • Why managers should hold “weekly coaching conversations” with their team members.


[text_block style=”style_1.png” align=”left” font_font=”Raleway”]

A Fable

Managers should establish “constructive coaching” as an ongoing process that provides developmental feedback to their team members. Brad Hutchinson’s experiences demonstrate why and how. Hutchinson is a sales manager who thinks he knows it all until he starts to work with Mick Donnelly, a former football coach still known affectionately as “Coach” to his friends and the people he mentors. Coach teaches Brad what effective team leadership demands.

“For people to follow you, they must trust and believe in you…For them to trust and believe in you, you must first trust and believe in them.”

Hutchinson works at NPC, a Fortune 500 firm, which has just named him Sales Leader of the Year. The CEO soon plans to honor Brad at a black-tie corporate event, but Brad wants to celebrate right away, so he heads out to Halftime, a popular local sports bar.

Leaders “invest the time to understand their people and to align their team members’ personal goals with the company’s goals.”

Hutchinson habitually focuses just on himself and his ambitions: “more money, a bigger title and greater prestige.” Only a few employees applauded when an NPC executive announced that Hutchinson had won the company’s big award. Actually, noticeable grumbling filled the room, and his colleagues seemed stunned. Hutchinson’s team was especially surprised. In fact, Hutchinson never paid much attention to the team members’ personal feelings. Still he figured his team would be happy for him and, with typical obliviousness, when he left the office, he invited them to join him at the bar. No one from Hutchinson’s team shows up at the bar, but he meets an intriguing older man whom everyone addresses as Coach. He asks Hutchinson why he defines success as achieving his numbers instead of seeing it as achieving the team’s numbers. Hutchinson insists that his team would not have hit its numbers without his personal intervention.

“Most managers are completely oblivious to the impact their approach is having on their team members and their team members’ level of performance.”

Coach diagnoses Hutchinson as suffering from “All About Me Syndrome,” or AAM. When the coach asks him to define the point of his job, Hutchinson replies, “To make my number.” Coach tells him he’s dead wrong: His true task is to “help [his] team members make” their numbers. Coach made it clear that while Hutchinson might have something to celebrate, his team does not because he does all the work and takes all the credit. Talking to Coach that night at Halftime, Hutchinson admits that he knows little about how to be a frontline manager, let alone a “frontline leader.” He was promoted into his current job with little training and left to fend for himself. Coach makes a deal with him – the crucial coaching contract: Coach promises to “invest” his time and advice in Hutchinson if he will turn around and invest his time and knowledge in his team.

“Most managers have never been taught… how to facilitate a constructive coaching conversation.”

The Four Types of Managers

Coach teaches Hutchinson that managers come in four types. They each have a distinctive approach that affects their rapport with their team members and their team’s productivity:

“It’s not about you…it’s about them – your team members. It’s about their dreams, their goals and their victories – not yours.”

  1. “Micromanager” – Micromanagers don’t trust the people they supervise. Their employees become frustrated with this distrust, and that undermines their performance and stifles their ambition. Expect low productivity and low rapport.
  2. “Nice-Guy Manager” – Nice-guy managers care more about being liked by their team members than about results. Expect high rapport but low productivity.
  3. “Do-It-All Manager” – Coach sees Hutchinson as this kind of manager – one who underestimates his team’s capabilities and believes, “If you want it done right, you’d better do it yourself.” This manager experiences high productivity, but low rapport.
  4. “Coach” – Coaches consistently elicit top performance and support their team members by holding weekly constructive coaching conversations and providing developmental feedback. Coaches show their faith in their people by dedicating themselves to helping each team member get the most out of his or her abilities. Coaches visibly try to engage with their employees. High productivity and high rapport flow naturally from that attention. This is the best type of manager.

“A lot of coaching equals a lot of improvement. A little coaching equals a little improvement. No coaching equals no improvement.”

“The Weekly Coaching Conversation Framework”

The most crucial ability you should develop as a manager is the skill to help your team facilitate a coaching conversation and to inspire your team to reach its maximum performance. Regularly scheduled weekly coaching conversations are the foundation of improved team performance. The more consistent your coaching is, the more your team members’ performance will improve – yet 44% of employees in one study report never receiving any constructive coaching or developmental feedback. Perhaps that’s because most managers are not trained to provide guidance. Sound leadership is based on a triangle of three steps that provide the framework for your weekly coaching session:

“A skilled coach uses Socratic questioning to control focus and direct behavior in order to initiate learning and improve performance.”

1. “Change Your Approach”

Leadership development starts with personal development. To get the most from your team members consistently, you must change your approach, “stop acting like a manager and start acting like a coach.” This transformation requires a shift in your attitude. “Change your mind-set and you’ll change your behavior,” Coach told Hutchinson. “It all starts with you. Change your behavior and you’ll change their behavior. Change their behavior and you’ll change their performance…nothing changes unless you do.” You must adopt two pivotal beliefs to become a coach: You must believe that your team has more to give and that your job is to get it out of them.

“The fatal flaw of the micromanager is that subconsciously they don’t trust in their team members’ ability to get the job done without them.”

2. “Create the Environment”

Research revealed a big gap between the level of rapport managers believe they have with their team members and their team members’ perspective. In short, most team members do not believe that their manager has created an environment in which they feel trusted, safe, valued, appreciated, understood, respected or empowered. Before managers try to facilitate a coaching conversation, they must first create a conducive environment. The first step to creating this environment is to “hit the reset button” on your relationship with your team members by having a “pull the weeds” conversation. The goal is to gain a better understanding of how they perceive the team dynamics and your management approach. As Coach told Brad, “To get them to become coachable, you must first become coachable. To get them to open up, you must first open up. To get your team members to embrace constructive coaching and developmental feedback, you must embrace constructive coaching and developmental feedback.”

“Coaches…don’t view organizational goals and people-development goals as separate and distinct – they view them as one and the same.”

3. “Transform the Conversation”

Managers must help their team members answer five critical coaching questions: “What must they do? How should they do it? Did they do it? What did they do right? And how can they improve next time?” These five questions are crucial because they link directly back to the four biggest reasons that employees aren’t more productive. To improve your team’s performance, look at these four areas first: lack of efficiency (or focus), lack of effort (or work motivation), lack of effectiveness (or skill competency), and lack of accountability (or follow through).

“Everything you do, everything you learn and everything you experience is all preparing you for that one critical moment…the leadership moment.”

As you work to become a coach, follow these guidelines:

“You’ve got to get into your head and heart what your real job is: to pull every ounce of potential from each and every team member each and every day.”

  • The secret is in the approach: “Stop acting like a manager and start acting like a coach.”
  • The old rules governing interactions between leaders and employees no longer apply. You must adapt to this new world to be effective.
  • A team’s improvement mirrors the effort the coach puts into the team.
  • The more time and effort your team members see you invest in them, “the more they’ll contribute.”
  • Every great athlete became great due to a coach who “believed in that player more than the player believed in himself.”
  • Examine yourself, be willing to change and face the hard journey of maximizing your potential so you can inspire your team members to maximize theirs.
  • “Coaching is not something that you, as a manager, must do. A coach is someone, that you, as a leader, must become.”
  • The true measure of your life will not be your achievements. The true measure will be “who [you] have become.”
  • You can learn to be more flexible, trusting, open and team-oriented, but it takes courage.

“The real reason most employees aren’t doing what they’re supposed to be doing…has a lot less to do with the employees themselves and a lot more to do with their managers.”

“I Believe in You”

Hutchinson learns from Coach that by changing his management approach and becoming a coach, he could help his team members feel “more valued, trusted, appreciated, empowered and fired up to come to work.” He sees that to become an effective coach, he must invest the time to get to know each person’s abilities and goals.

“When all is said and done and we’ve completed this journey we call life, what will matter most is not what we have achieved, but rather who we have become.”

While most managers view “organizational goals and people-development goals” as different, great coaches view them as the same thing. One of a coach’s most critical ongoing tasks is to help team members align their personal focus and behaviors with the company’s strategic objectives. Coaches must consistently convey one crucial message to their people: “I believe in you.” As a coach, you can only “achieve your potential if you first help your team members achieve theirs.” Coaches drive employee performance by following a simple formula: “Employee Productivity = Efficiency times Effort times Effectiveness.” Problematic team members may lack efficiency, effort, effectiveness or accountability. Managers can help their teams work more productively, put in their best efforts at all times, and gain the skills and knowledge to do their work well. Coaches inspire their teams by fulfilling their own responsibilities according to the same formula.

“In football, you can draw up a beautiful game plan,” Coach told Hutchinson. “But if your quarterback can’t command the huddle on the field, your team will fail to execute the plays.” Your team members look to you for guidance. If you’re too wrapped up in your own performance, they cannot achieve their goals. When you explain and apply the productivity formula, you ensure that your team members know what you expect of them. The formula helps guide their performance more concretely than if they’re just shooting for abstract numerical goals.

Coaching Guidelines

Constantly observe and evaluate your team members’ performance. Look for areas where they can improve. For your coaching conversations to be transformative, keep them “short, to the point and productive.” Remember the 80/20 rule: “Talk only 20% of the time and listen 80% of the time.” Use provocative questions to assess if they know how to do a particular task. Without questions, they can’t learn and without learning, they can’t improve.

Devote yourself unselfishly to helping your team members develop faith in themselves, their abilities and their work. “The greatest gift you can give a salesperson – or any person, for that matter – is self-confidence.” Your job as a coach is to convince team members that they can do more, and better, than they ever thought they could. Your coaching conversations should help you learn each team member’s abilities and the fears that keep each one from maximizing those gifts. “To convince, you must first be convinced. Not only must you have confidence in your product and your company, but more importantly, you must have confidence in yourself.”

Conducting weekly coaching conversations will create a new openness between you and your team members. That openness makes the people on your team especially vulnerable to your opinions of them. Be aware of your tone of voice, choice of words and body language. “Everything you do and everything you learn sends a message to your team.” Guide your team to “set process-oriented, weekly goals” and positively reinforce their achievements regularly in light of these objectives. Let them know you recognize and honor their hard work and accomplishments because, “what gets reinforced gets done.” Encourage “steady, consistent progress. Focus on making your team members a bit better, day in and day out.

The Awards Gala

Coach’s guidance transforms Hutchinson’s ideas about managing others. When the company gives him the Sales Leader of the Year award, he shows how much he has learned and changed. During his thank-you speech, Hutchinson shocks his colleagues by saying that he is not worthy of the recognition. Then, he turns down the award. “When I first became a manager, I thought my job was to make my number,” he says. “I was wrong. I now realize it’s about them – my team.” Everyone in the room rises to give him a standing ovation.


About the Author

[text_block style=”style_1.png” align=”left” font_font=”Raleway”]

Brian Souza is the founder and president of ProductivityDrivers, a corporate training company that specializes in improving employee performance and organizational productivity.


[text_block style=”style_1.png” align=”left” font_font=”Raleway”]

Get key insights from 15,000+ non-fiction books at