Corridor Conversations ~ Leader as Coach: When to use a Coach Approach

corridor conversationsCoaching, contrary to popular belief, doesn’t need to be a one hour conversation hidden behind closed doors away from the work, it can be short and sweet too, ‘corridor conversations’. Tweet This!

Afterall, as Teresa Amabile says, any progress is good progress.





Here are three scenarios. Great opportunities for a bit of coaching, short corridor conversations….

  • You’re on your way to a meeting, and one of your team members asks to walk with you to discuss an issue they are facing.  What do you do?
  • You’re approaching the water cooler, and one of your project team is already there; he’s encountered some obstacles to getting a piece of work done.  What do you do?
  • You’ve just finished a meeting and you’d like to give some positive feedback to one of the meeting participants for their contribution.  What do you do?

Don’t rush off to the next thing on your to-do list.  Take a few minutes to move people forward, so that they can make progress.


You can still use your STOKeRS questions to contract for the conversation, to give it some structure.  I know what you are thinking, that alone can take 10 or 15 minutes, so how is this conversation going to be succinct?  Use the time you have.  Get to the point.  Pace is good.

In the first corridor conversation scenario;

  • ask what they would like to talk about (Subject)
  • let them know you are on your way to a meeting and have 5 minutes before you are due in the room, so what specifically would they like to walk away with from that 5 minutes? (Time, Outcome)
  • how will they know they have what they need? (Know)
  • how would they like you to support or challenge them? (Role)
  • where would they like to start?

[STOKeRS credit: 3d Coaching].

You may need to encourage them to bottom line, to get to the point, in order to get them the outcome they want.  That’s ok, that’s a good challenge for them to be brief in this instance.  Whilst the subject matter might be much bigger than the two of you can tackle all at once in this 5 minutes, they will walk away with just enough to move forward.  Often that helps them to keep moving forward, without needing another hour to resolve the rest of the issue.  Simply getting them started on the path is enough.  And if they do need more time when they get stuck again, perhaps another 5 minute conversation will be enough to nudge them forward.

In the second corridor conversation scenario, where your team member has encountered some obstacles, you might use STOKeRS in a different way:

  • Steven, I noticed that you had come up against a barrier to making progress this week. (Subject)
  • I have 7 minutes before I need to get back for a phone call, but I wondered what might be useful for us to explore together in that time, to get you moving again? (Time and Outcome)
  • How will you know you have got what you need by the time we end? (Know)
  • How shall we do this together? (Role)
  • Where would it be useful to start? (Start)

Again, your aim is to support Steven enough to enable him to take one step forward, to try one new experiment, to talk to one new person (whatever his outcome is), in service of knocking down the barrier in his way.  He can then proceed.  If you do need more time together, at least you’ve been able to get started on the process and can then book more time in your respective diaries.

Scenario three is a more feedback based corridor conversation, and you’ll remember that we looked at a coach approach to feedback in the last post.  So take another look at that to see how you might do this.  In a nutshell though, you might say something like:

  • Sophie, how do you think that meeting went?  And your contribution?
  • I noticed that at the point Josie said x, you responded with actual data that prevented us from getting into a long-winded discussion.  I’m grateful for the way that kept the meeting on point, saving mend the other participants’ time and saving the organisation the cost of 10 people’s salary for 30 minutes.  Thank you

Because it’s positive feedback, you would not move into coaching mode to help Sophie to think through what she would do differently next time.  But you could still ask her what she learned about herself and how she might apply that learning in similar situations in the future.

In Summary

Corridor conversations are a great opportunity for nipping something in the bud, or getting something sorted, or giving some feedback while it’s still fresh in the mind.  So don’t miss those opportunities to use a coach approach in a pacy way. Tweet This!

You may find it useful to catch up with some of the previous blogs in the series:

Leader as Coach: When to use a Coach Approach ~ Giving Frequent Feedback

Leader as Coach: When to use a Coach Approach ~ One to Ones