Mistakes to avoid in coaching

This article focuses on some of the most common mistakes made by coaches that can limit the effectiveness of their coaching.
Daniel Baylis
08 October 2019

In this article, we are going to focus specifically on mistakes coaches sometimes make that can be limiting the effectiveness of their coaching.  

If you are responsible for coaching in a call center, then reflect on some of your previous coaching sessions as you read through this article. Have you ever demonstrated any of these characteristics? Do you have some opportunities to improve?


Lecturing means long monologues by the coach. The intention is to create additional pressure in an attempt to motivate the agent or to provide a long list of things to do differently.

An effective coaching session is a conversation between a coach and an agent. It aims to identify the root causes and behaviors limiting their performance, and then develop specific action plans and goals to move forward.

Of course, if agents genuinely do not understand why performance is essential or the consequences of not achieving it, then it is important to take them through. However, typically, this is well-covered in training and likely already to be understood by your agent. Your coaching session can be more useful by finding specific opportunities to help them improve - not just on building pressure and stress. 

Any time you are providing instruction, you are training, not coaching. This is not a bad thing, but it is essential to consider whether a training session is what is needed. Identifying the need for training is a potential outcome of a coaching session — but it is not the coaching session itself. 

Coach first and switch to training mode only if you need to.

Before launching into a training session, use questioning techniques to get to the real root causes behind an agent's current performance. If you identify knowledge gaps as a root cause, then move to training-mode as a solution.

70 / 30 is an excellent rule of thumb for the listening-to-talking ratio of a coach in a typical coaching session. That is, the coach should be listening 70% of the time and talking no more than 30%. If you find you are talking more than this, you might be training and not coaching.

Ask yourself whether a training session is what is needed, or if you need to ask more questions to get to the root cause first.

Poor body language

Communicating messages of frustration, impatience, and disappointment through your body language can quickly derail a call center coaching session. From being a supportive and comfortable environment, the session can promptly descend into a high-pressure disciplinary lecture. Agents will grow fearful and shutdown.  

Once this negative environment is created, it will become much harder to identify the real root causes behind an agent's performance.

Be friendly and welcoming and encourage agents to talk and actively participate in the session. Control your emotions and be extremely mindful of the body language you are using and the message it communicates. 

Make sure your body language communicates your commitment to the partnership, your enthusiasm and curiosity, and your support in helping agents to unlock their potential. If that means taking a quick break to settle yourself before starting a session - do it!

Root cause assumptions

When you make strong assumptions about the cause of a behavior, you can limit the questions you are going to ask — and, therefore, the effectiveness of your coaching session.  

For example, a coach may assume that all performance limitation is driven only by the agent's desire to perform. They may believe the agent is just not choosing to apply their skills and knowledge.  

It is easy to fall into this line of thinking, especially after all the training they may have received. However, in most cases, agents do not come to work to do a lousy job deliberately.

All that we can see by observing an agent is their behaviors while taking calls. It can be tough to understand why these behaviors are taking place from observation alone. Lack of confidence in speaking with customers could stem from a lack of confidence in one of the systems used or something on their mind that is unrelated to work.

You may get some clues from observations and preparation, and determine some metrics and behaviors to focus on in our coaching sessions. However, it is best to remain open about the possible root causes driving behaviors as you begin each session. 

Stay curious as a coach and ask questions with a genuine interest in identifying opportunities and working together to find the right action plans. If you make wild assumptions before the session has even begun, you will prevent yourself from getting to the real issue - and, therefore, to an effective solution.

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