How do you get ready to coach someone?

You know you have to be present, to really listen, to adapt your approach based on the other person’s needs, to help the person find his or her own answers and not solve the problem (as much as you want to).

At the same time, you have to let go of your agenda, your need to control, your need for efficiency, your need to be right, or your need to check this off the list and move on to the next crisis begging for your attention.

And you know you’ll probably get hijacked by your own emotions, if it’s a serious issue.  Maybe it will pluck your nerves and your core values. Maybe you don’t have the best relationship with this person; as leaders we don’t always get to choose those we work with and those we don’t.  If you get hijacked, chances are you will shift to meeting your needs, and suddenly the conversation will become all about you.

It’s a tough challenge, being there for another human being who is just as messy as you are.  So how to get ready?

Before you walk in, empty your cup.  Take a moment, hit your pause button, and pour out all of your stuff:  the terrible day you’ve had, your rocky relationship with this person, your raging emotions, your preconceptions, your need to move on to the next thing, or your need to solve the problem. Pour out anything that’s about you, anything that won’t help you be the best coach you can be for that person.

Then walk in.


(Thanks to @rrrowland for the metaphor!)



Tom Epperson

Tom Epperson

Dr. Tom Epperson is the President of InnerWill, and an instructor in Virginia Commonwealth University’s Executive MBA program. Tom is a certified business coach and has a Doctorate in Leadership from The George Washington University. Tom works with clients on cultural transformation, leadership development, executive coaching, and igniting individual and organizational potential. Previously, Tom served as the HR Director for Luck Companies, and played a significant role as one of the architects of Luck Companies’ cultural transformation.

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