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  • Toby Sinclair

50+ Coaching Tools For Leaders

Updated: Feb 28, 2022

Helping leaders confidently develop people, with coaching tools, that enable incredible results.

Coaching tools for leaders

You might already know it. A coaching style of leadership delivers results. In fact, Google did a study and found that coaching is the primary skill employees look for in a manager.

You don't need to be a manager to lead with coaching. Everyone can use coaching to maximise the potential in themselves and others.

Coaching can be confusing. There are many coaching approaches and it seems everyone claims to be a coach today. My experience is that most people confuse coaching with mentoring. Many also think great coaching is about giving advice.

The intent of coaching is to unlock the potential in someone. Mastering coaching skills enable you to do that. These are active listening, asking powerful questions and being self-aware. Less telling, more asking.

These coaching tools are curated for leaders working in organisations. You might be a manager leading a team. You could be a product manager leading with influence. Or you might be a coach helping people through their change journey.

These tools help you lead confidently in situations such as:

I've used these coaching tools as a manager, coach and leader. You can be assured these are the most practical and impactful tools for leaders.

Let's dive in and build your coaching toolkit.

Coaching Tools for Managers

Coaching Tools 🧰

Coming Soon:

  • Improving Team and Group Performance

  • Business Coaching Tools

  • Stress Management

list of coaching tools

Goal Setting 🎯

“If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy and inspires your hopes.”

Andrew Carnegie

There are many coaching exercises for goal setting. Coaching helps for three reasons:

  1. It increases awareness of options. The first answer is rarely is the best. Coaching encourages the exploration of options. This leads to better goals.

  2. It brings together diverse perspectives. It helps explore blind spots in thinking.

  3. It provides structure. The coaching technique of asking the right questions will help you arrive at better answers.

Coaching Tools for Goal Setting 🧰

💡 Use this in performance reviews to inspire action towards a goal.

Every coaching training program will start with the GROW Model. Popularised in John Whitmore's seminal book Coaching for Performance. One of the best coaching exercises for coaching in the workplace.

Grow Model Cartoon

💡 Use this to make goals feel real and provide inspiration when progress is challenging.

Also known as dream boards, a visual coaching technique. These inspirational collages serve as your image of the future. A tangible example, idea or representation of where you are going. They should represent your dreams, your goals, and your ideal life.

💡 Use this when distractions are preventing progress towards goals.

A not-to-do list is a handy tool to help you stay more focused on the important things in your life and career. Simply put, it's a list of tasks you don't do, no matter what. You delete them, delegate them, outsource them, or simply say no when they try to find their way on your to-do list. One of the best coaching techniques to use if you have team members who struggle to stay focused on what's most important.

💡 Use this to help people explore future career options and identify the plan to get there.

This virtual coaching tool is good for gaining perspective and objectivity. Done in person, real chairs would be used but still works well in this virtual environment. A perfect coaching exercise for career-development discussions.

Vision Chairs Cartoon

💡 Use this with teams to plan goals for a product, project or improvement theme.

The improvement canvas is based upon the "Toyota Kata" Approach. It's a visual way to explore your vision, where are you now, where you want to go next and the first steps you can take. A coaching technique perfect for agile teams.

Book Recommendation 📚

There are 100's of books on goal setting. Coaching for Performance by John Whitmore popularised the Grow Model. This will give you a deeper understanding of how to use the Grow Model for goal-setting conversations.


Developing Relationships 🤼

“The quality of your life is the quality of your relationships"

Anthony Robbins

Relationships are hard. Learning coaching techniques can help you navigate these difficult situations. This might be a conflict between team members, a challenging stakeholder or a customer.

Coaching tools build empathy and understanding through active listening.

Coaching Tools for Developing Relationships 🧰

💡 Use this to navigate challenging relationships with team members, stakeholders or customers.

The perfect coaching tool to see things from another person perspective. In this coaching tool, you'll take three perspectives. Yours, the other persons and a detached observer. A great approach to build empathy and understanding.

Perceptual Positions Coaching Tool

💡 Use this to ensure you have the right people around you to succeed.

Just like an annual performance review, do the same for relationships. On a regular basis reflect on the relationships in your life. Are they adding or subtracting joy from your life?

💡 Use this to help a team become more aware of their relationships with each other.

Constellations is a popular coaching exercise with a simple premise: a group of people express themselves without words, by arranging themselves in proximity to a central focus – an idea, concept or statement – in relation to their feelings about it.

💡 Use this with teams who tend to focus on the negatives and forget to amplify the positives.

The conventional approach to problem-solving is to look at what's wrong. Appreciative Inquiry takes a strengths-based coaching approach. Instead of looking at problems, what is working well in this relationship right now? Discovering your strengths can help you find ways to amplify them.

💡 Use this to help people evaluate the role they are playing in relationships.

The Karpman Drama Triangle is a social model of human interaction proposed by Stephen B. Karpman. It maps a type of destructive interaction that can occur among people in conflict. This coaching tool used often in psychotherapy, specifically transactional analysis. The triangle of actors in the drama are persecutors, victims, and rescuers.

Book Recommendation 📚

The 5 Love Languages is as practical as it is insightful. It reveals intrinsic truths and applies relevant, actionable wisdom in ways that work.


Handling Difficult Conversations and Conflict 😱

Minimize relationship conflict and maximise task conflict.

Developing coaching skills can help you master crucial conversations. Using these coaching tools will help you navigate these conversations confidently.

Coaching Techniques for Handling Difficult Conversations and Conflict 🧰

💡 Use this to help a team engage in the right type of conflict

Did you know there are commonly two types of conflict? Relationship conflict and task conflict. And did you know one of these holds the key to high performance? Minimizing relationship conflict and maximise task conflict can help your team succeed.

💡 Use this to help a team engage in the right type of conflict

Nearly every manager I speak with uses this coaching framework on a daily basis. The Radical Candor model can help you plan and deliver difficult feedback. It can help you reflect on your leadership style so that you can get the best outcomes for your team.

Radical Candor Cartoon

💡 Use this to plan a difficult conversation where the stakes are high. Such as asking for a pay rise, raising conduct issues or giving bad news to your boss.

Leaders have the coaching conversations other people avoid. Crucial Conversations provides the playbook for planning and delivering difficult conversations. Essential reading for all leaders.

💡 Use this to understand your conflict preferences and how they effect your outcomes.

Leaders succeed when they become comfortable using a range of responses in conflict. This assessment will highlight your preference from the 5 conflict modes: competing, collaborating, compromising, avoiding, and accommodating.

💡 Use this to clearly communicate in high pressure situations.

Non-Violent Communication (NVC) is a great coaching tool for conflict resolution. NVC provides a communication framework to clearly express your feelings, needs and requests. You can use this yourself and also help others learn how to best express themselves in conflict situations.

Book Recommendation 📚

New York Times bestselling author and award-winning journalist Amanda Ripley investigates how good people get captured by high conflict—and how they break free.


Building Self-Awareness 🧠

Research suggests that when we see ourselves clearly, we are more confident and more creative. We make sounder decisions, build stronger relationships, and communicate more effectively. We’re less likely to lie, cheat, and steal. We are better workers who get more promotions. And we’re more effective leaders with more-satisfied employees and more-profitable companies.

Self-Awareness is an essential leadership skill. One of the best ways to develop it is with coaching. There are several coaching tools designed to cultivate self-awareness. Not only will this help you become a better leader but will help you coach your team.

Coaching Exercises To Build Self-Awareness 🧰

💡 Use this when working with a new team or individuals to build understanding of each other.

This is my favourite coaching exercise for building self-awareness. The Johari Window helps you understand how others perceive you in contrast to how you perceive yourself. In this coaching exercise, you will gather feedback from key people. This will be used to help you become aware of blind spots.

Johari Window Cartoon

💡 Use this to surface the principles that drive your leadership style.

Ray Dalio is an American billionaire investor and hedge fund manager, who has served as co-chief investment officer of the world's largest hedge fund, Bridgewater Associates. He is the author of Principles, the collection of principles that have driven him. He has paired up with Adam Grant, author of Think Again to create this assessment tool. Learn what is driving your leadership style.

💡 Use this daily to get what's in your head out on paper for mental clairty and inner peace.

Journalling has been proven to reduce stress levels and encourage mindfulness. When you journal, you're carving out time in your day to look after yourself and be curious, it's an act of self-care to improve your life. The particular technique I've used is morning pages. Three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning.

💡 Use this to in a group to help harness each others strengths.

Rather than dwelling on your weaknesses the answer to success might lie in your strengths. Gallup Strengths Finder is an assessment you can complete to surface what you do well. this is based upon the belief that we'll be more successful amplifying our strengths. To cover the weakness it's best to partner with others who are strong in the areas you are not.

💡 Use this to get a better balance between the important priorities in life.

The Wheel of Life is a popular online coaching exercise. It allows a client to explore different dimensions of their life. The wheel is a visual representation of a person's life. Segments of the wheel relating to different life dimensions.

Book Recommendation 📚

Marcus Buckingham popularised the idea of putting your strengths to work. In this book, you'll learn how to identify your strengths and the strengths of your team.


Help People Navigate Change 😲

“There are three ways to change behaviour: have an epiphany, change environment, change habits in tiny ways.”

Coaching has been shown to help people navigate change. In fact, the very essence of coaching is about embracing change as a constant reality. Leaders who coach listen, show empathy and help people build clear action plans. These coaching exercises will help you support people through change.

Coaching Techniques To Help People Navigate Change 🧰

💡 Use this to plan and relect on change projects.

ADKAR is a change management framework that stands for:

  • Awareness

  • Desire

  • Knowledge

  • Ability

  • Reinforcement

The model helps you examine the stages of a change journey. This can help you design coaching interventions targeted to where people are on their change journey. A common trap is jumping straight to Knowledge. Assuming that if we train people they will change. The ADAKR model helps you avoid this pitfall and many others.

ADAKR Cartoon

💡 Use this to break changes down into small, easier steps.

Any change involves behaviour change. The only way for anything to change is if someone starts acting differently. The key principle in Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg is to make behaviour change easy to do. The Fogg behaviour model can help you identify these easy changes.

💡 Use this to plan and relect on change projects.

The most famous change management model. The Kotter change model consists of 8 steps. These encapsulate the change journey people go through. Once you know these stages you can better plan and manage change within your organisation.

Kotte Change Management Steps

  1. Create a sense of urgency

  2. Build a guiding coalition

  3. Form a strategic vision and initiatives

  4. Enlist a volunteer army

  5. Enable action by removing barriers

  6. Generate short-term wins

  7. Sustain acceleration

  8. Institute change

💡 Use this to involve everyone in co-creating change.

In Open Space meetings, events and organizations, participants create and manage their own agenda of parallel working sessions around a central theme of strategic importance. Instead of a single leader "leading change" everyone is given a voice.

💡 Use this to help people step out of their comfort zone.

Change can move people towards their edge. The edge is the space between what is now and what can be. This transition can create anxiety and stress demonstrated in edge behaviours. Edge theory enables you to experiment with the edge and find ways to step into new territory.

Book Recommendation 📚

Who Moved My Cheese is essential reading for anyone supporting change. It takes less than 1 hour to read and expresses the core principles of change. This simple tale will equip you to help others through change.


One-On-One Exercises for Managers 👥

“…one-on-ones provide an excellent mechanism for information and ideas to flow up the organization and should be part of your design.”

All of the coaching tools on this site will work well in one-on-ones. The Grow Model in particular is a foundational tool for managers. Here are some specific coaching exercises that work especially well in one-on-ones.

One On One Coaching Exercises 🧰

💡 Use these 7 simple questions to structure your one-on-one conversations.

Coaching doesn't have to be complicated. Managers especially want simple tools they can use frequently with their teams for maximum success. One of the simplest ways you can introduce coaching into one-on-ones is using Coaching Questions. In the Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stanier, there are 7 coaching questions you can use to guide a conversation. Once you build the habit of asking these 7 questions you'll get breakthrough results.

💡 Use this exercise to understand more about what motivates your team members.

Management 3.0 has an array of great coaching tools for managers. My favourite is Moving Motivators. It's a simple card game to surface what motivates your team. It's a great exercise to use in one-on-one coaching. Doing the exercise collaboratively can help your team learn about your motivations too.

💡 Use this at the start of each one-on-one to quickly understand whats important for your team member.

This is a quick way to check in at the start of every one-on-one. You can very quickly get to the heart of what's most important for your team member. It's also a great way to baseline how this changes over time.

Book Recommendation 📚

One of the best coaching books for managers is The Coaching Habit. The coaching questions will help you have great one-on-ones.


Self-Care Coaching Exercises ❤️

“If you're a leader, do everything you can to grow yourself and create the right environment for others to grow.”

- John C. Maxwell

To serve others leaders must place attention on their self-care. Leadership is hard and requires you to put in as much energy as you take out. Coaching exercises can help you prioritise your self-care. By role modelling self-care you also teach these coaching exercises to your team.

💡 Use this to become more aware of how you are feeling in this present moment.

In addition to Morning Pages, Mindful Journalling is a great self-care exercise. A mindful journal is writing in the present moment where you are the only reader. Here I share 5 mindful journal prompts for your self-care toolkit:

Book Recommendation 📚

There have been many self-care books published in recent years. The Surfboard is an alternative book that highlights the importance of self-care.


Overcoming Limiting Beliefs ⌛

“You begin to fly when you let go of self-limiting beliefs and allow your mind and aspirations to rise to greater heights.”

- Brian Tracy

Limiting beliefs are things we hold to be true that hold us back from achieving our goals. A great example is perfectionism. The belief that everything needs to be perfect when you take action. This belief can hold people back from taking action in the first place. Breaking these limiting beliefs can help you find new levels of performance.

Coaching Techniques To Overcome Limiting Beliefs 🧰

💡 Use this to help people appreciate the successes they've had in their career.

Imposter Syndrome is the belief that you are not as competent as others perceive you to be. This is an incredibly common limiting belief. It can stop you from pursuing opportunities you have the skills for and speaking up to share your opinion. The career timeline coaching exercise helps people realise their strengths. When people look back they often realise the value in their experience.

Imposter Syndrome

💡 Use this to increase a persons awareness of different options in a given situation.

Perfectionism is the tendency to seek perfection in everything you do. This can stop you from taking action and miss opportunities. It can lead to immense internal pressure and stress. The Inner Boardroom coaching tool helps people become aware of different options. Tap into the different perspectives that can help you see situations differently.

💡 Use this with people who struggle to say no and as a result often take on too much work.

I know this limiting belief very well. I'm a big people pleaser. This means I often put the needs of others over my own. I also have internal stress if I need to give bad news or say no. I've learned to build a habit of saying No. Something that helped is practising the different ways to say no.

💡 Use this to help people overcome the barriers to action.

Procrastination is the act of delaying or postponing action. There can be many external drivers for this but often it's an internal belief that holds you back. It's closely connected to people-pleasing and fear. Eating the Frog is a popular approach to breaking your tendency to procrastinate. This means finding your most important task for the day and doing it straight away.

💡 Use this when someone is reluctant to take action.

Tim Ferris is a big fan of this coaching technique. Instead of defining goals, it can be helpful to define your fears instead. When people are faced with change it is often feared that hold them back. This coaching exercise helps people realise those fears are scarier in their heads rather than in reality.

Book Recommendation 📚

The is one of the best coaching books. It helps you master the 12 traits that hold you back from success.

1 Comment

shubhi gupta
shubhi gupta
Jul 17, 2021

Hi! I love how informative and great your articles are. Can you recommend any other <a href="">Transitions Counseling</a> blogs that go over the same topics? Thanks a lot!

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