Developing Skill and Ability in Others

Situational leadership provides a simple model of the development path of an individual through the four stages labelled D1 to D4. The challenge is how to help an individual develop both competence and confidence and move through those stages. One tool available to the leader is coaching.


The idea of coaching and mentoring tend to come together and blur into each other. Consequently various authorities differ on their definition and even whether they are different; thus the words are often used interchangeably. For our purposes we will consider them to be different and to have the following roles:

  • Mentoring
    Mentoring fosters the growth of a person as a person. The growth is scoped by the context, so for instance a parent will mentor their child to mature as a person as required in their culture. In an organisation a mentor will help an individual mature, developing the life skills required by the type of person needed on the team, fully absorbing and living out the organisation’s values.

  • Coaching
    Coaching is about developing the technical competence of an individual or group in a particular skill or expertise. Thus a sports team is coached to be more proficient in individual skills and capabilities and in working together as a single unit, both with aim of being successful. The principles translate directly to the organisational situation. It’s only the skills and capabilities that change. When it comes to developing the “softer” skills coaching begins to merge with mentoring.

In the context of Situational Leadership our goal is to develop the technical competence and resulting confidence levels required to move someone along the development path D1 to D4.

But coaching is about more than simply developing technical skills through one-to-one instruction. It’s about enabling the person being coached to turn problems into learning opportunities and develop skills for the future. It is a process that empowers them, enabling them to think through and resolve issues for themselves. As a consequence the person being coached will develop greater ownership of the task in hand and feel that their contribution is valued and significant.

The GROW Coaching Model

There are many coaching models. One that is widely used is GROW. It is neither focused on the coach nor primarily the end result, although that is in view. It is focussed on the individual, the person being coached.



This is primarily about the goal for the coaching exercise.

  • What is it that the person being coached needs or wants to achieve?



This focuses on the situation as it currently is. The coach enables/facilitates the person being coached to address the reality of the situation e.g.:

  • As things stands is it possible to achieve the Goal?
  • Does the individual concerned have the means available to achieve the Goal?
  • What obstacles are preventing them from doing so?
  • What obvious and hidden assumptions are being made?
  • What has been learned so far?
  • In subsequent coaching sessions this stage includes assessing progress towards achieving the Goal.



The coach encourages the individual to think through and identify ALL the options for achieving the Goal given the Realities of the situation.

  • How can the obstacles be overcome?
  • What training or assistance may be needed?
  • Does the Coach need to apprentice the individual through a “Show and Tell” Modelling the Way process?

It is important to stimulate creative thinking when identifying the options. Human beings tend to think along the same old paths, force fitting new circumstances into patterns we have seen before. Most times these patterns are near but not perfect matches, and so the accompanying solutions, that we used last time, are often less than appropriate.



Way  Forward

This step concerns itself with the “What Next?” question.  The person being coached chooses a way forwrad and commits to the appropriate action plan. It is an agreement between the Coach and the Coachee covering:

  • Setting SMART objectives (see the section later in the Student Notes)
  • The clear definition of the steps required to achieve the Goal
  • Identification of the support that is required and how it will be provided.
  • Determining how to deal with things that might go wrong.
  • The future involvement of the Coach to monitor progress and share learning.

Show and Tell

“Show and tell” is a process of teaching someone to develop skills and at its simplest involves both instruction and demonstration. It is an apprenticeship model, the duration of which varies dependent upon the nature of the task and the abilities and speed of learning of the apprentice. The model is expressed in several variants.

  • Instruction

The instructor explains what needs to be done and how to do it, providing any necessary background and expectations.

  • Demonstration

The instructor demonstrates what needs to be done, applying the instruction.

  • Student Assists

The instructor engages the student’s assistance in completing the task and reviews the experience with them.

  • Instructor Assists

The student completes the task with the support of the instructor. Together they review the outcomes and agree what steps may be needed to improve performance. This process may then loop back

  • Practice

The student completes the task unaided while the instructor watches. Together they review the outcomes and agree what steps may be needed to improve performance.

  • Application

The student is now ready to complete the task themselves and apply their learning in their normal activities.

Dependent upon the situation and the complexities involved various steps may be merged. For instance the Instruction and Demonstration steps may be best completed as one step for simpler activities. The student’s background and experience may also cause steps to be merged.  The instructor needs to tailor the process to the needs of the student.

The Value of Questions

The coaching process is about developing the individual being coached so that they learn to achieve with competence and confidence. Thus coaching must be a learning process for them, not a “do it the way I tell you” list of instructions from the coach. To achieve this, the coach must facilitate the process of exploration and discovery for their coachee so that they can arrive at the conclusions for themselves. The coach will need to act as guide and perhaps, if appropriate provide, instruction on specific skills.

The exploration is best facilitated with questions and there are three kinds that will be of benefit.

  • Open Questions

Most people are familiar with the ‘open question’. This is a “What?”, “Where?”, “When?”, “Who?”, “Why?” or “How?” question. It forces the other person to think and provide information as opposed to simply a “Yes” or “No” answer. 

  • Scaling Questions

We are all familiar with scaling questions but probably do not use them much. They run along the lines of “On a scale of 1-10, where 1 is really bad and 10 is exceptionally good, how would you rate the situation?”  They can often be followed by the supplementary question “Why…?”.

Such questions force a different perspective on the situation which means the other person has to think about it in a different way. Changes of perspective help to provide insight.

  • Silence, the Implied Question

When asking questions we can be too ready to move on or offer clues as to what we think the answer should be.  Other times we might not know what the next question ought to be.

In such cases silence can be the most eloquent question because it invites the other person to fill the gap, to respond to the implied request “Tell me more…”. They will tend to do this by volunteering more information resulting from associations and thinking more deeply. Consequently, their answers to the implied questions that silence suggests may be far more insightful than their initial response.

Coaching Hygiene

There are a number of things to consider around the coaching relationship in order that it can be effective. You may find the following check list helpful:

  • Agree the purpose and scope of the relationship.

Ensure that you have shared and agreed objectives with the coachee and that you can identify when the goal has been achieved.

  • Agree the regularity of interaction.

Will it be a one-off or a regular session, how frequently will you meet?

  • Determine the type of accountability.

Are you simply a guide and the individual is responsible to someone else? Do they have a moral responsibility to you as coach because of the effort and commitment that you make to them? Are you their boss and so from the line management/power perspective they are accountable to you? Etc.

  • Clarify the level of confidentiality.

It may be they will need to share with you, the coach, matters that make them vulnerable. They will need to trust you not pass them on. Similarly, in your sharing of wisdom and experience you may need to be sure they will keep sensitive things confidential.

  • Evaluate the process from time to time.

It’s important to make sure the process is achieving its aims. Is it having a benefit? If not why not and how can it be addressed?

  • Modify expectations to fit reality

External change is an ongoing reality, additionally the coachee’s development process is inherently one of change. Consequently. As the coachee progresses the realities of the situation may vary and expectations will need to be reviewed and addressed if necessary.

  • Bring closure to the coaching relationship when the job is done.

The coaching relationship should not simply continue; once the goals have been achieved it needs to be brought to a conclusion. If coaching is needed for some other situation then that should be set up as a new and different instance of the coaching relationship. It may be with the same or a different coach. In any event it will have different objectives and criteria of success.

  • Ensure an appropriate setting.

As coach you will need to make sure that coaching sessions are set up in an appropriate setting .e.g. where you can give your full attention, so no phones and in private if sensitive confidential conversations are required and so forth.

Coaching to Improve Learning

Studies have shown that training needs coaching for it have a truly beneficial effect. In this case the coaching is about working out how to apply training in day to day situations. It is a process that helps

  1. to convert the training into behaviour and;

  2.  to embed new behaviour into regular practice.

The studies show that training without this kind of coaching tends only to be about 5% effective whereas when supported with coaching it can achieve an effectiveness of up to 80%.


  • When someone you lead has been on a training course it is well worth your effort to set up coaching sessions to help them work out how to apply the training.
  • For you, it will be well worth finding a trusted person with whom you can share what you are learning about leadership. It will allow you to talk through the application of these things and embedded them into your leadership approach and practice.


  • Take a Moment: Considering the people that you lead:
    • Is there anyone who needs coaching to move along the development path?
    • Think through how the first coaching session with them might go.
    • Set up a conversation to talk with them about coaching for improvement.
  • Take a Moment: You will benefit from coaching to help embedded your leadership learning into daily practice.
    • Who could you approach to help you by talking through your leadership challenges?

SMART Objectives and Goals

This section is provided as a reference for those unfamiliar with SMART objectives. It is not included in the topic video.

SMART is an acronym to help leaders and managers prepare and agree goals and objectives that are fit for purpose. A written objective should comply with each element of SMART. There are several variants of SMART, here is the one that we will use:


Specific Objectives need to precisely and unambiguously describe the desired outcome of the activity. Use action-orientated words in its formulation e.g. Analyse, change, design, build, write, review etc.


Measurable If an outcome is measurable then you can determine if it has been achieved. When determining the criteria to be measured you need to confirm that the measurements are feasible, i.e. that the necessary data is or can and will be made available.


Agreed The objective must be agreed by you and the individual or team concerned. This agreement should be achieved in the spirit of being a Christ-centred servant leader, so a consultative not a power approach should be adopted.


Realistic To be realistic an objective must be achievable. It doesn’t have to be easy but it must be possible. This implies that the necessary money and resources will be made available (as leader this may be your responsibility). If they are not, then the objective is no longer Realistic and no longer SMART.


Time Bound Objectives should have a timescale and deadline declaring when work should start, when it should be completed and when key resources will be available. Some planning work may be required to ensure that the timescales are realistic.