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Mastering 3-Min Coaching Conversations

Aug 8, 2023

“3 minute coaching depends on us to suspend our need to ‘know things. It requires us to remember to ‘be the coach’ and help the other person to access their full knowledge and wisdom. What we know matters, but who we are matters more.”

– Brené Brown

Coaching conversations can be brief, yet incredibly impactful.

In today’s fast-paced world, time is a precious commodity, and leaders often find themselves overwhelmed with responsibilities and commitments. 

So often I hear leaders telling me they’re too busy. We have an idea or a view that coaching is a 30 minute conversation in a small room, fresh coffee, maybe flowers.

This belief can dissuade busy leaders from engaging in coaching conversations altogether.

But, coaching conversations can happen anywhere and they can be brief

At its essence, a coaching conversation is one where we invite the person we are with to think for themselves.  We come to the conversation believing they are resourceful, capable, thoughtful. 

A coaching conversion is also where we invite the other person first. To share their thoughts, goals and ideas. We start with them rather than starting with us. 

When is coaching inappropriate?

Certainly, there are instances when coaching conversations may not be suitable. Emergency situations, time-sensitive moments, and high-pressure scenarios are some examples where immediate action is required, leaving no room for coaching.

Additionally, there are times when you, as a leader, possess a clear solution, and expecting the other person to find it themselves might lead to discomfort or inefficiency. 

In such cases, taking a direct approach or providing guidance may be more appropriate and beneficial. Remember, effective leadership involves discerning when to coach and when to take a different course of action for the best outcomes.

7 questions for powerful conversations

So, how can we make that brief conversation impactful?  Making a brief coaching conversation impactful is all about honing the art of precision, active listening, and focused questioning. Here are some key strategies to ensure that every moment counts. 

Picture this scenario: Someone seeks your advice on a challenging matter, but instead of jumping to provide answers, you take a different approach. 

Through seven simple, yet profound questions, you empower them to find their own solutions:

    1. What are your thoughts about what to do?
    2. What other thoughts do you have?
    3. What else?
    4. Of those thoughts, which one do you think is the best approach?
    5. What, if any, are the risks in doing that?
    6. How do you feel about taking that forward?
    7. Is there anything you need from me?

It’s that simple. You can adapt these questions and even use them in a chat. It doesn’t have to be a verbal or in person conversation.  

By maximizing each moment, employing powerful questions, and actively supporting the other person’s growth, you can create meaningful and transformative interactions even in the briefest of encounters. 

If you have any positive outcomes from trying these techniques, we also invite you to share how these skills have helped you in your conversations in our comment section of our LinkedIn and Instagram pages.

Want to coach well? Unlock tips on how you can exercise coaching skills
in this week’s toolkit. Download our Free Leadership Reset Toolkit here.  

Jean Balfour ICF Accredited Professional Coach and Managing Director of Bailey Balfour

Jean Balfour

Founder & Programmes Director


About the Author

Jean Balfour is Managing Director of Bailey Balfour and Programme Director of our ICF Accredited Coach Training Programmes. Jean is passionate about helping people to have good conversations both at work and at home. She believes that coaching is a life skill and that you never regret learning to coach.

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