Coaching Conversations: Lay Out a Success Plan

Businessman with hand on head standing on white floor in front of painted labyrinth hand drawing blue way out. Concept of finding solution.

Businessman with hand on head standing on white floor in front of painted labyrinth hand drawing blue way out. Concept of finding solution.

A good way to ensure you have productive coaching conversations as a manager is to follow a checklist or framework. I’ve been sharing the FUEL model of coaching conversations, from the Zenger and Stinnett book, The Extraordinary Coach:

  • F = Frame the Conversation. Set the context by agreeing on the discussion’s purpose, process and desired outcomes.
  • U = Understand the Current State. Explore the current state from the coachee’s point of view. Expand the coachee’s awareness of the situation to determine the real coaching issue.
  • E = Explore the Desired State. Articulate your vision of success in this scenario. Explore multiple alternative paths before prioritizing methods of achieving this vision.
  • L = Lay Out a Success Plan. Identify the specific, time-bounded action steps to be taken to achieve the desired results. Determine milestones for follow-up and accountability.

The fourth step is where the managers and coachee lay out an action plan. This is the home stretch in a coaching conversation, and like the previous steps should not be rushed or skimmed. Presumably by now you and the coachee have outlined the desired vision of success as well as several alternatives for getting there. Together, you prioritized the options that will work best. Now you are ready to dive into the specific detailed action steps with a follow-up plan.

The role of the manager is critical here as a guide. You help the coachee identify the specific actions to be taken. You help the coachee enlist the support of others. You need to hear the coachee articulate exactly how he or she will proceed to increase the likelihood that it will happen. Also, you help the coachee commit to timelines for important milestones.

By assigning accountability, you will help your coachee change faster than without it. Even if 85 percent of coachees complete their assignments on the day or morning before their next coaching assignment, it is still effective.


Here are the three substeps of this final coaching conversation:

  1. Develop and agree on an action plan with timelines.
  2. Enlist support from others.
  3. Set milestones for follow-up and accountability.

The key role of the manager is to ask for details, clarity and commitment. This is how managers add value to the coaching conversation. Accountability works, and it works better when there is consistent follow-up.


Research suggests that when the coachee can provide feedback to the manager on the value of the session, the quality and relevance of the session is significantly increased. But few managers remember to ask for feedback. One possible way to conclude a coaching conversation would be like this:

“On a scale of one to five, how valuable was this conversation in regards to providing relevant help for you?” And, “Please feel free to provide feedback on your progress to me in two weeks.”

What’s been your experience with coaching at work? Give me a call. Or, you can reach mehere and on LinkedIn.

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