Partners and GCs are not only lawyers. They also coach in many situations.

There are partners growing associates, GCs nurturing staff lawyers, lawyers as managers coaching assistants, lawyers as parents helping their children survive and thrive. Coaching can be easy or hard depending on how much rapport you have with your coachee. But when it works coaching is a tonic that helps the coachee and the coach.

I think you can be a pretty good coach by using the three and a half steps I suggest below. They will help you set the stage, to build rapport and maybe, even, make a friend.

Coaching has many dimensions. A thorough coach training program can take weeks to complete. None of the tips I suggest below are the actual skill building coaches do. They are not the ‘how to’s’ of offering ideas to polish existing skills or generating perseverance to gain experience. Providing all that is a basic instinct in a coaching relationship. These 3.5 ideas complement the skill building part of coaching.

Steps one and one and a half are setting goals. Firstly outcome goals; what’s desired for the long term, and secondly progress goals; things that need to be done along the way. So for example if I have a lawyer client, who is an associate in a law firm, the long term goal might be partnership and the progress goals may be two relationship building lunches every week. Essentially the long term goal is mostly ignored except as a reminder to build motivation. My coaching will be all about helping my client figure out how to get into two relationship building lunches every week. Lots of suggesting, giving ideas and generating perseverance are needed to do that.

Step two and a half is being continuously optimistic. That is believing that success will come; it’s just a matter of finding the right way. By continuously focusing on it the optimistic coach conveys that “success is inevitable if you persevere”. Coaches must constantly and repeatedly focus on the solution and positively present the steps to get there. Never dwell on what’s wrong or isn’t working. Dwell only on what the next forward steps should be. Remember, success does not have to involve undue struggle — just a succession of steps roughly in the right direction.
As Henry David Thoreau put it: “If one advances confidently in the direction of their dreams, and endeavors to live the life which they have imagined, they will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”
Step three and a half is operating with a belief that your coachee is a work in progress. As such, they will benefit from encouragement. This is cheerleading and focuses on feeding the coachee’s sense of self and champion his or her accomplishments. This gives the coachee the motivation to continue to grow. This takes empathy. The coach must think about the coachee’s thoughts, needs and feelings as they are occurring and make an effort to say something to energize the coachee to move forward and be heartened by their progress.

Jerome Shore is an Executive Coach in Toronto, Canada. Clients to look to Jerome for help with Marketing, Leadership and Stress Management. He can be reached at or 1-416-787-5555.