How to Coach Your Nonprofit Employee Effectively: 3 Steps for Leaders to Take

As a nonprofit leader, If you’ve got a problem employee, you want to fix them. That’s human nature.

Angela was my problem employee. She drove me nuts! My frustration with her created a lot of angst inside of me and spilled out onto my team.

When I started coach training, I wanted to use coaching Angela to fix her. But what I learned is coaching isn’t about fixing people. Instead, it’s to take what’s already right with them, their strengths, their potential etc. and help them see that.

And to do that, coach someone; they have to be open to it. Angela was not.

With Angela, I needed to have a performance or corrective conversation. I needed to review expectations, do a bit of training and then hold her accountable to do the role she was hired to do.

But Cynthia was a whole different story. Cynthia was eager to learn, interested in growing and always seeking feedback. She wasn’t lacking in her performance. She was ready for the next level!

And so, I chose to practice my coaching skills with Cynthia!

The difference between a corrective and a coaching conversation is this:

  • A corrective conversation is when something is wrong, and you need to draw someone’s attention to it and hold them accountable for fixing it.

How to coach your employee — 3 steps

Before I could have a coaching conversation with Cynthia, I had to do a couple of things.

First, I had to think about and identify her strengths and consider her potential and how she could grow into that.

Then I had to help her see that as well. I had to point her in the direction, or maybe just open her eyes to what she already knew.

After that, it was time to use powerful coaching questions.

How to use coaching skills.

Before I go any further, let me say this as a coach. To get to where I am, I have taken a ton of training and practised lots! There are many skills involved in coaching, and asking questions is only one of them. But just like you ask your child what hurts as a doctor does, you can use some coaching skills to develop your employee.

Learn how to ask powerful coaching questions

That’s where asking powerful coaching questions comes in. Learning how to ask those questions, what kinds of questions to ask, and when to ask them are part of understanding how to use coaching questions as a leader.

Help to learn how to ask powerful coaching questions

If you want to coach your employees, you need to learn how to ask powerful coaching questions. Michelle Maloy Dillon, a fellow coach, talks about how curiosity is your superpower when you ask powerful coaching questions in this week’s podcast episode. From Michelle, you will learn what kind of questions to ask and a few no-nos that you’ll want to stay away from.

The 3 steps for coaching your nonprofit employee:

To review, here are the three steps that you need to take into account when you start coaching your employees.

Identify your employee’s potential

Communicate their potential to them, helping them see what’s possible as they continue to grow and develop.

Ask powerful coaching questions to help them determine how to grow into that potential.

The impact of coaching on Cynthia

Cynthia walked into the first coaching conversation a bit apprehensive. I was honest with her about practising some new skills with her. However, within moments of asking her a couple of the powerful coaching questions, I could sense a shift in her. Cynthia was sitting up taller, was engaged in the conversation, animated with her passion for the work.

As I continued to use coaching questions in our conversations, Cynthia continued to grow. She remained engaged in the work, committed to the clients and the role and took over when I left the position!

The impact of coaching on me as the leader

I quickly learned using coaching skills with Cynthia that I did not need to fix her. I didn’t need to have all of the answers either. Nor did I need to solve all the problems. Instead, I could ask the coaching questions and allow her to answer, letting her inner knowledge and wisdom emerge. It took a ton of pressure off me as a leader, and I began to enjoy my job more.

Remember to tune in to this week’s podcast episode to learn how you can use powerful coaching questions too!

Extra help and ton’s of ready to use questions

If you want some extra help with this and are a member of the Training Library, you’ll find a worksheet with three pages full of powerful coaching questions in this lesson. If you’re not a member of the Training Library but are curious what it’s all about, check it out here.

Remember that you got to where you are because you are skilled at some part of the work you’ve been doing. Each of the pieces of training you have taken along the way has taught you skills. You can use those skills with your employees.

Have you learned listening skills, conflict resolution skills, relationship building skills or team building activities?

I know that we often think we don’t have a lot of training to do our job, but sometimes we just have to be a little more curious about how we can apply what we already know!

I think you already know how to ask questions. Tweak them a bit, and you’ll find excellent results!

Originally published at



Helping women leaders make it in the nonprofit world. Leadership Development Coach * Best-Selling Author * Wife * Mom * Grandma * Mom to one boxer named Zeus!

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Kathy Archer

Helping women leaders make it in the nonprofit world. Leadership Development Coach * Best-Selling Author * Wife * Mom * Grandma * Mom to one boxer named Zeus!