Preparing & Planning for Coaching 3 – Creating Coaching Opportunities

Need some inspiration on creating opportunities for coaching sessions? Coaching doesn’t just happen. You need to decide how you will invest your discretionary leadership time to carry out the coaching.

Creating Coaching Opportunities

Back in the summer of 2016 I wrote two articles about Preparing & Planning for Coaching. One of the delights of Blogging is to see which articles stand the test of time and are regularly being read by visitors to the website. Such is the case for ‘Preparing & Planning for Coaching’. Here is the next article in the series: ‘Creating Coaching Opportunities’.

Need some inspiration on creating opportunities for coaching sessions? Coaching doesn’t just happen. You need to decide how you will invest your discretionary leadership time to carry out the coaching. This article follows up on coachee preparation in Preparing & Planning for Coaching – 2 and your preparation as the coach in Preparing & Planning for Coaching.

Creating Coaching Opportunities

You need to decide how you will invest your discretionary leadership time to carry out the coaching. Your time is limited and needs to be rationed according to a return on coaching investment formula. You need to make decisions on which of your direct reports need more of your time and which less – differentiation according to their needs and the needs of the business.

Return on Coaching Investment (RoCI)

If you are an experienced Coach you will have a formula or feel for how you invest your time on coaching. If you are new to coaching you may need help from your Manager or Coach on this. As a rule of thumb, if you have 6 to 8 individual contributor direct reports you should initially plan to spend about 20% of your time on coaching. This includes preparation, coaching and follow up. You can adjust this as you begin to see a cause and effect relationship emerging between the coaching you do and the results your direct reports achieve – your return on coaching investment (RoCI).

Your goal as a Leader and Coach is to achieve results through others by making the most of the valuable resources who are your direct reports. Having decided how you will invest your coaching time, you should plan for whom and when that coaching will take place.

Monthly One-on-One Sessions

A starting point for your coaching plan will be the opportunity created by the monthly one-on-one sessions you schedule with your direct reports. These sessions may be conducted face-to-face if you are co-located, or by telephone or other virtual means if you are geographically removed from each other. As a golden rule, ensure part of the time allocated to monthly one-on-ones is reserved for coaching. What are the different coaching approaches you can take in these sessions?

    • Cover a performance issue that has arisen since the last one-on-one session. This might be something you have already given the direct report feedback on, and made a note of in Log Book. This could be short mini-coaching sessions with any follow up required planned for the next one-on-one.
    • Respond to something that happens during the one-on-one session. Perhaps by turning a question or comment from your direct report into a 15 minute laser-coaching session. Answer a question with another question. Examples: “What do you think?”; “What is your goal here?”; “What options have you considered?”; “Where do you want to be on this, and where do you think you are now?”
    • Run a pre-planned coaching session where you have agreed in advance with your Coachee direct report the goal and subject of the coaching, and both of you have pre-prepared for the session. These would be longer coaching sessions of 30 to 45 minutes duration on a single subject with follow up planned ‘on the job’ or at the next one-to-one.
    • Respond to requests for help and support from your direct reports. Ad-hoc or on-demand sessions will typically be between 5 and 15 minutes. Make sure the subject your direct report wants to cover is directly related to their business goals and the priorities in the team’s battle plan. This ensures you are coaching them on ‘must haves’ versus ‘nice to haves’.

Planned Coaching Journeys

Coaching journeys are a series of pre-planned coaching sessions outside of the monthly one-on-one sessions. They will be focused on ‘chunky’ or more substantial performance opportunities related to business goals and must win battles. As such, they will be on coaching subjects that you, as the Team Leader, select. They may be with a single Coachee, a small group or your whole team of direct reports. The emphasis here is on you as the Team Leader and Coach pro-actively seeing the long-term needs of the business and taking the initiative to schedule a series of coaching sessions in pursuit of those needs.

This is core to the leadership role. Ideally you have a coaching journey in place with each of your direct reports. Each journey will be formally defined with a Coaching Contract.


You will find a template for a ‘Coaching Contract’ in the Coaches Toolkit . You will also find a ‘Coaching Preparation’ template in the Coaches Toolkit. A review of your scheduled coaching journeys with your direct reports will be part of the monthly one-on-one sessions with your manager. Setting up and running these coaching journeys will also be part of your leadership performance coaching from your manager.

Observe and Respond

As part of your daily leadership work you will observe opportunities for ad-hoc coaching. You will decide to react to situations with your direct reports. You make a judgment that these are opportunities that cannot wait until the next monthly one-on-one session. You act decisively. Based on what you observe, you translate the implicit needs and concerns of your direct reports into ad-hoc coaching interventions. You are there with them and you respond in the moment. Since this is a dynamic situation, you may lead into the session with specific feedback and a time check. Example: “I notice you are working on XYZ at the moment. Would you like some feedback on how I see this? Do you have Z minutes right now to discuss this?” Make sure you link the coaching subject to the Coachee’s business goals and/or the team’s battle plan. This gives context to the Coachee and a clear business reason for your intervention. You may decide to set up any follow up for the next monthly one-on-one.

Setting the Scene

There are many things you need to do to ensure the platform is in place with your direct reports for you to be effective as their Coach. Research and experience shows there are two critical things a Coach must do: build rapport and create trust. If you need more information you will find ‘Techniques – Building Trust and Rapport’ in the Coaches Toolkit.


Think of this list as a set of key principles rather than rules or guidelines. Lists like this work best when you use the material for inspiration and take what you want from it. The magic bit is when you come up with your own ideas and experiences and build on my list. When you do, please post your comments and share your ideas.

Author: Trevor Sherman

Trevor Sherman: Author, Blogger and Coach. What do I do? I develop leadership training material and personal learning modules. I am the owner and operator of this Blog. I coach senior executives for their development and role transition. I am based in Northamptonshire UK and operate globally - in person and through technology.

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