Career Change ~ Leader as Coach: When to use a Coach Approach

career changeOne of your team members appears to be disengaged and bored with his role.  He’s very capable, but his heart just isn’t in it anymore.  You’ve been doing what you can to motivate him, but you haven’t managed to find that sweet-spot in your team that would make the most of his strengths, his passions and what the organisation needs.  You’re wondering whether to bring this up with him at his next one-to-one, when he schedules a meeting in your diary to talk about his career progression, a possible career change.

He’s been doing a lot of thinking and he’s come to the realisation that he doesn’t fit here.  He wants to move on.  How do you react?


A career change out of the team can mean hard work for managers

Some managers don’t want to lose their team members, as that means extra work for them in recruiting someone and training them up, and that all takes time.  But progressive managers realise that there’s no point in keeping someone in post who is unmotivated.  That has a huge opportunity cost, where someone more motivated could really pull out all the stops and get more accomplished in a shorter space of time (albeit sometimes after a period of training).

Given that this person has trusted you enough to admit to wanting to change career, how can you repay that trust by giving him what he needs?

Move into a coach approach


  • You said you wanted to talk about career progression.  What would be useful for us to talk about in relation to that?
  • We have an hour in the diary; what would you like to be different by x o’clock?
  • How will you know you’ve got that?
  • How shall we do that work together?
  • Where would you most like to start?

[STOKeRS credit: 3d Coaching].

They may not know where they want to start.  What we know about career change is that there is a whole raft of places we could start:

Who? Where? How?

Who am I?

o   Your journey-line

o   Your strengths

o   Your Values  

o   Favourite skills and interests

o   Your passions

o   Your resources

o   Your physical environment

o   Your philosophy for work

Where do I want to get to?

o   Work Satisfaction/motivation

o   Life roles

o   Eulogy and epitaph

o   Your Vision

o   Your life balance aspirations

o   Ideal Job Description

How will I get there?

o   Sweetspot: What is the overlap of my strengths, my passions, what I can be paid for and what the world needs?

o   Generating options

o   Describe your ideal boss

o   Job search targeting plan

o   Linked In

o   CV

o   Your alumni – work and educational

o   Mentors

o   Building a network

o   Selling yourself

If you gave him a “menu” like this, that would make it easier for him to see what he would need to think about along the way…and what might be a good place to start, given what he already knows about himself.  No need to go over things he has already figured out for himself.

Once he has chosen where to start in this conversation with you, keep in that coaching mode to reap the benefits of him coming to his own conclusions.  The more he works out for himself, the more likely he is to do something different.  Hearing your advice based on your experience won’t necessarily fit his situation, and might actually stall his progress.

Of course, not every team member will trust you enough to have this kind of conversation with you.  They don’t want to be penalised in the performance management process.  But where they do open up, make it count!

You may like to read some of the other blogs I’ve written in this series. Here are links to a couple…

Leader as Coach: When to use a Coach Approach ~ Coaching for Change in Role

Leader as Coach: When to use a Coach Approach ~ Coaching Someone who is Moving Roles Internally