Yoda Coaching

You must unlearn what you have learned.
— Yoda

Who is the best coach you’ve ever had?  Coaching is using a set of skills to actively listen, ask powerful questions, raise awareness around “blind spots,” challenge thinking and deeply held beliefs, and make requests for new action.  Sir John Whitmore (known as the father of coaching) states the essence of coaching is: unlocking a person's potential to maximize their own performance.  It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.


It’s not “telling” the person what to do.  Most individuals default to a coaching mode of “teaching” and it takes practice to be able to effectively “facilitate” coaching.


  Here are 4 ways to raise the bar on your coaching skills:

  1. Be fully present for and focused on the coachee.  We are always busy, but it is extremely important to clear your mind and focus on the coachee and facilitating the process. Otherwise, we slip back into our default mode of teaching instead of facilitating the learning.  Eliminate distractions and try a quick 2-minute meditation to ground yourself in the here and now.

  2. Be aware of your own mindset and that of the coachee.  Are you coming into the coaching with a Growth Mindset or a Fixed Mindset?  Having a growth mindset will help your beliefs about the malleability of personal attributes such as competence or work ethic. 

  3. Practice empathetic listening (aka active or reflective listening). When you listen emphatically, you are letting them know “I am interested, I care, and I seek to understand you.  I am not judging you and I acknowledge how you feel about this issue.”

  4. Ask open-ended questions to facilitate coachee’s own insight.  Ask open ended, non-leading, non-suggesting questions.  Good questions start with how and what instead of why. 

When I think of great coaches it reminds me of Yoda (remember Star Wars?) or a wise Grandparent.  They know the answer, but they are going to ask you questions to help you grow and come to your own conclusions based on your experience.  I hope each of you can be a Yoda coach for your direct reports! 

Do or do not. There is no try.
— Yoda