SCIENCE DISCUSSION(NO PLAGIARISM, A++ WORK, QUALITY, ON TIME) Discussion on Science 12 teaching tips Associate Editors: Diane M. Billings, EdD, RN, FAAN,


teaching tips
Associate Editors: Diane M. Billings, EdD, RN, FAAN, ANEF
Karren Kowalski, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, ANEF, FAAN

Copyright © SLACK Incorporated

Associate Editors: Diane M. Billings, EdD, RN, FAAN, ANEF
Karren Kowalski, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, ANEF, FAAN
Author: Karren Kowalski, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, ANEF, FAAN

Most of us associate the term coach with our favorite sport. Some of us who love
basketball think of Coach K from
Duke University and the coach of
several Olympic Goal Metal teams,
or if we are slightly more contro-
versial, Coach Bobby Knight from
Indiana University. Originally, the
term coach described an instructor
at Oxford University in the early
1800s who guided a student through
a course or an examination. Nursing
leaders at every level are responsible
for the growth and the performance
of their colleagues. In this process,
it has been suggested by the Gallup
organization (StrengthsFinder 2.0)
that everyone could benefit from
coaching. This process can support

people in embracing change, learn-
ing from their work, growing pro-
fessionally as human beings, and
advancing in the workplace. Notice
how coaching differs from mentor-
ing (see the December Teaching
Tips article by Karren Kowalski
[2019b]). Coaching is much more
structured and focuses on the pres-
ent and the near future. Mentoring
is much more casual and is focused
more on the professional career and
how to advance one’s career within a
specific organization or on the deci-
sion to change organizations.

To be an effective coach, it helps
to have been coached at some time
in one’s career. I had a coach for close
to 15 years. She was a master at ask-
ing questions and coached from the
philosophic perspective that I had
the answers inside of me and only
needed encouragement to identify
and implement them. She held me
to my agreements regarding what
actions I would take. She consis-
tently questioned me to encourage
me to learn from my experiences—
what happened, what worked, what
did not work, and what I would do
differently in future situations. She
supported me in delving deeper, to
understand the motivation for my
behavior and my reactions to diffi-
cult situations.

In coaching, the coachee comes to

a session with specific goals and can
report on what was accomplished
from the previous session. The em-
phasis is on mutual respect, openness,
empathy, and a strong commitment
to speaking truthfully. Sometimes it
is difficult to hear a truthful observa-
tion about behavior. When these ob-
servations are shared compassionately
and from a point of view of personal
responsibility, learning is maximized.
Notice the collaborative relationship
and a focus on possibilities rather than
an authoritarian approach or one of a
supervisor–subordinate perspective.
From a philosophical perspective, the
coachee is a complete individual who
is naturally creative, resourceful, and
whole and can discover solutions to
problems and issues (Kimsey-House,
Kimsey-House, Sandahl, & Whit-
worth, 2018).

From the coach’s perspective,

coaching can be divided into phases.
The first phase establishes the foun-
dation for the coaching relationship
through building a relationship, set-
ting realistic expectations, observing
coachee behavior, and establishing
the practice of self-reflection for both
the coach and the coachee (Kowalski
& Casper, 2007). This is a cocreative
relationship—a partnership founded
on the belief that both are highly
functioning individuals. The rela-
tionship can be established by learn-
ing and knowing about each other as

An effective tool for the growth

and learning of health care employ-
ees is coaching. This process can
use either an external or an internal
coach. The coaching process is usu-
ally formalized and consists of four
phases. Some suggest that lead-
ers should spend 40% of their time
coaching their staff. [J Contin Educ
Nurs. 2020;51(1):12-14.]

Dr. Kowalski is President and CEO, Kowalski and Associates, Larkspur, Colorado, and Professor,
Texas Tech University, School of Nursing, Health Sciences Center, Lubbock, Texas.

The author has disclosed no potential conflicts of interest, financial or otherwise.
Address correspondence to Karren Kowalski, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, ANEF, FAAN, President and

CEO, Kowalski & Associates; e-mail:


13The Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing · Vol 51, No 1, 2020

individuals and understanding each
other’s background and strengths. A
part of this process is setting realis-
tic expectations for structured meet-
ing times, such as the coachee being
prepared with a specific agenda and
a report on any commitments made
in the previous coaching session. As
much as possible, the coach bases
conversations on his/her own obser-
vations of the coachee or the report
by the coachee of specific situations.
To facilitate discussions of learning, it
is helpful if both the coach and the
coachee enter into a process of reflec-
tive practice, which includes writing
or journaling about specific events the
coachee experienced and what hap-
pened during these events, and for the
coach to reflect on how sessions pro-
gressed and what was learned about
the effectiveness of specific questions
and observations.

The second phase constitutes the
body of the coaching process, which
consists of an emphasis on being pres-
ent and fully focused on the coaching
process and the individual, creating a
positive atmosphere. This involves the
coach asking great questions (Kowal-
ski, 2007a, 2007b, 2008a, 2008b,
2009a, 2009b), listening actively
(Kowalski, 2019a), and sharing per-
ceptions or observations graciously
and supportively. Being present is de-
fined as being totally focused on the
coachee without interruptions such
as telephones, computers, or people
walking into the office. Interruptions
translate into the coachee feeling un-
important or discounted. This focus
correlates with creating a positive
environment for the session. Positive
use of the allotted time also supports
the coachee to be prepared with an
agenda rather than casually discuss-
ing whatever is on his/her mind.
This ensures that important issues
are discussed. The coach also focuses
on the positive, to reinforce progress
and changes, and to end each session
with the coachee identifying a suc-

cess since the last meeting. The coach
uses powerful and thought-provoking
questions. The purpose of these ques-
tions is to discover what the coachee
is thinking and what they perceive
about difficult situations, both about
their own behavior and the actions
of others. These questions are open-
ended; for example, “What did you
notice about…” or “What was your
response to the other person and what
stimulated that reaction?” Questions
are complimented by active listen-
ing, which demonstrates respect and
sensitivity for the coachee. The coach
can reflect to the coachee a summary
of what the coachee has said and an
interpretation of the essence of the
communication. Guidelines for a ses-
sion can be found in Table 1.

The third phase is taking action,
which includes suggesting options,
requesting behavior changes, clari-
fying the action plan, and creating
a supportive environment. Action
can begin with the coach asking the
coachee what the thought process is
regarding a specific idea, event, or
problem. The coach can also make
suggestions, which could begin with
“What if?” questions, such as “What
if you did…” or “Have you thought
about…?” and “What other possibili-

ties could be considered?” The coach
can also ask for specific behavior
change, which might include an ob-
servation about specific behavior and
how they would act differently in the

The final phase is completion or
ending the coaching relationship.
Coaching relationships are usually
time limited. The contract is for a
specific length of time, which can be
extended as needed. However, these
relationships do end, and there is val-
ue in purposeful completion of the
coaching relationship. The comple-
tion process can be rewarding as an
opportunity to summarize the learn-
ing and growth by both the coach
and the coachee, as well as serve as
an opportunity to express apprecia-
tion for learning and opportunities.


When the coach is internal to
the organization, whether a human
resources staff member or another
employee, the greatest risk is the fear
that confidentiality could be compro-
mised. This is a serious concern and
its importance must be emphasized.
At the same time, the cost of exter-
nal coaches when used for many per-



1. How have you been since our last meeting?

2. What are your agenda items for this session?

3. Are there any interpersonal issues between the two of us that need to be addressed?

4. What are the three most difficult events you have experience since our last meeting?

5. Describe these events, including what worked for you and what you wished you had
done differently.

6. Review any agenda items not covered.

7. Review the commitments the coachee has made since the last meeting and what the
outcomes are.

8. Identify the three most important things to be accomplished prior to the next meet-

9. Identify at least one success/achievement the coachee has had since the last meeting.

10. Confirm the time and place for the next meeting.

14 Copyright © SLACK Incorporated

sonnel is often cost prohibitive. One
possible alternative is to work slowly
and gradually build the reputation
of the coaching staff. If coaching is
identified as a high priority, it would
be beneficial to have the internal
coaches experience formal coach
training from an accredited coach-
ing firm that is approved by the
International Coaching Federation
(2019). Another possibility is that
trained coaches from the profession-
al development department can sup-
port leaders in learning the basics of
coaching to be used with their staff.
In such situations, the leader could
ask the employee if they would be
amenable to some coaching. This is
a way in which leaders can support
their employees to learn and grow.
With the rapidity of change today,
we are all in a steep learning process.
External coaches are outside of the
organization, which is beneficial in
that they pose no confidentiality or
favoritism issues that internal em-
ployees may face.

Used within the nursing work-

force, coaching provides a valuable
method for the coachee to learn from
their own experiences and process-
es, while the nursing leader can not
only facilitate the learning but share
their knowledge and experience. The
four-phase foundation of the coach
and coachee relationship works to
build learning, know each other, and
use each other’s observations for the
coachee’s benefit. Finally, the out-
come of the coaching relationship, in
which the coachee can express appre-
ciation and gratitude for the personal
growth, can assure the coach about
coaching skills and reinforce confi-
dence in these abilities.

International Coaching Federation. (2019). The

gold standard in coaching. Retrieved from

Kimsey-House, H., Kimsey-House, K., San-
dahl, P., & Whitworth, L. (2018). Co-active
coaching: Changing business transforming
lives – The proven framework for transforma-

tive conversations at work and in life (4th ed.).
Boston, MA: Nicholas Brealey.

Kowalski, K. (2007a). Guidelines for asking
questions. The Journal of Continuing Educa-
tion in Nursing, 38, 249.

Kowalski, K. (2007b). The value of asking ques-
tions. The Journal of Continuing Education
in Nursing, 38, 200.

Kowalski, K. (2008a). Difficult questions in dif-
ficult situations. The Journal of Continuing
Education in Nursing, 39, 16.

Kowalski, K. (2008b). Tough questions: Rec-
ognize and resolve communication break-
down. The Journal of Continuing Education
in Nursing, 39, 57.

Kowalski, K. (2009a). More situations in which
questions are valuable. The Journal of Con-
tinuing Education in Nursing, 40, 393.

Kowalski, K. (2009b). Situations in which
questions are valuable. The Journal of Con-
tinuing Education in Nursing, 40, 344-345.

Kowalski, K. (2019a). Building effective teams.
In P. Yoder-Wise (Ed.), Leading and man-
aging in nursing (pp. 336-357). St. Louis,
MO: Elsevier.

Kowalski, K. (2019b). Mentoring. The Journal
of Continuing Education in Nursing, 50,

Kowalski, K., & Casper, C. (2007). The coach-
ing process: An effective tool for profes-
sional development. Nursing Administration
Quarterly, 31, 171-179.

Reproduced with permission of copyright owner. Further reproduction
prohibited without permission.

Submit a Comment

Open chat