The left side of this simple coaching model shows five coaching habits that drive reliable performance. This is the side of choice. Each day, leaders choose whether to take these actions. Their choices influence the right side of the model – the results. If you choose your habits, then you must take responsibility for your results. You are each responsible for the choices you make and the results you ultimately achieve.

If you choose not to build these coaching habits, you must accept these predictable outcomes:

  • Instead of Alignment, you get Confusion
  • Instead of Engagement, you get Disengagement
  • Instead of Ownership, you get Entitlement
  • Instead of Accountability, you get Blame
  • Instead of Commitment, you get Compliance

These coaching habits are based on natural human dynamics and needs. That’s why it does not look like rocket science and seems so simple. That is also the reason why these habits work across generations, industries and cultures – because they meet human needs in the workplace.

It is easy for one thing or another to get in the way of these habits, but if you say “yes” to those things, you are saying “no” to reliable team performance.

Coaching for reliable performance is not a “salt and pepper” practice. You cannot sprinkle on a little explaining here and appreciation there and expect reliability. You must perform these habits consistently.

If world-class athletes need a coach every day, why wouldn’t your team? Each day you are making a choice about your team’s alignment, engagement, ownership, accountability and commitment. Let’s see how a team leader, Lexi, and an employee, Cameron, progress through the five coaching habits to boost reliability:

Lexi: “Hey, Cameron. I’m glad I bumped into you. I wanted to talk to you about something. We really need to improve our response time on special orders. If we do, we will create a positive ripple effect with our core customer, which will drive sales, and that’s good for all of us.” (Lexi is explaining expectations and consequences.)

Cameron: “OK, I understand.” (Cameron is simply observing.)

Lexi: “You’re on the front lines with this issue. Why do you think our response time has increased lately?” (Lexi is asking questions.)

Cameron: “Well, the new system migration has had its bumps. But I think the bigger issue is that we weren’t prepared for the recent promotional campaign for our VIP customers. Our call volume from VIPs has increased by 80% for special orders over the same period last quarter.” (Cameron is becoming engaged.)

Lexi: “We need to discuss your ideas on how we can get back on track. Our response time has a direct impact on our bottom line, so I’ll give you whatever support you need to take care of this.” (Lexi is involving


Cameron: “That sounds great. Let me get some input from my team and send you some recommendations before our meeting. I’m confident we can identify a good solution and implement it quickly.” (Now Cameron

is owning the solution.)

Lexi: (after they meet) “I like your recommendations, Cameron. Let’s measure the key metrics you identified each week for the next month and touch base to see if we need to tweak anything.” (Lexi is observing performance and providing feedback along the way.)

Cameron: (next month) “Looks like we are in good shape. Our response time has gone down each week, and we have been at our target of 20 percent reduction in response time for the past two weeks. How about if I

just keep an eye on things now and send you a quick scorecard each month to ensure we sustain the changes?” (Cameron is taking accountability for the results.)

Lexi: “That sounds great, Cameron. I am really impressed with how you took control of this challenge, involved your team and executed the solution. I really appreciate your efforts. Well done!” (Lexi is appreciating Cameron and his performance.)

Since Lexi applied the five coaching habits, Cameron is feeling a sense of personal commitment to his job and to his leader. Plus, he is motivated to perform reliably so he can be reinforced by his leader again, because it feels good. We all like to be reinforced for our performance. Of course, even on the most reliable teams, there will be instances when you must find leadership courage to address performance problems.

Elaine Agather is Chairman of Dallas Region JPMorgan Chase and head of its Private Bank. She is a beloved and direct leader who understands the responsibility of her role. Agather states, “The team is bigger than any issue at hand. The leader has a personal accountability to the team to have tough conversations and to occasionally make tough decisions with individuals.”

Excellent leaders such as Agather choose to meet the needs of their teams over any personal discomfort. It reminds us of our son’s former high school football coach, Chris Cunningham, who would preach this same leadership concept of “team over me” with this visual he had printed on T-shirts:

Reliability is a two-way street. You get reliable performance from your team by being a reliable leader for them.

Excellent leaders do not use the five habits as separate leadership tools. Instead, they integrate the coaching habits into their daily interactions, realizing it is the most effective way to create The Reliability Advantage.


“Lee and Julie deliver powerful lessons. As inspirational as it is practical. A vital tool for leaders at any career stage. An extraordinary book!” 

Marshall Goldsmith, The Thinkers 50  #1 Leadership Thinker in the World