Inspired by the book “Triggers” by Marshall Goldsmith.

Dr Goldsmith’s definition of a trigger is ‘any stimulus that reshapes our thoughts and actions.’*Triggers - Marshall Goldsmith

My motive for writing this piece is to give you a method for making your teams more resourceful and proactive in their work and to encourage you to embrace a coaching approach.
We will look at five frameworks to help you introduce coaching into your management practices.

Try the following framework as a coaching tool for:

  • Pinpointing insights
  • Accelerating learning
  • Stimulating new actions with your employees around their job responsibilities and development initiatives:

Pinpointing Insights

Think about how you can use this framework to help your staff pinpoint the priorities in their work deliverables, how relevant it is to their situation, what consequences are being manifested by their current direction and what actions need to be taken to maximise their planned outcomes.

This places the impetus for action into the hands of your subordinates. Your role is simply to shine the diamond which your employees have discovered in the rough.


When you wear your coaching hat as manager, change will likely be on the agenda. The challenge, always, is to sustain a change process in amongst the pressure of the regular deliverables which can smother inspirational thinking and new idea creation amid the daily grind.

Despite knowing this, the fear of loss in most human beings outweighs their thoughts around the positive benefits that will be gained through change. Evolution has hard-wired us in this way and it drains energy when you attempt to break Nature’s Laws.

To address people’s fears around change, Goldsmith recommends a four-stage framework which asks people to reflect on what to:

  • Create
  • Preserve
  • Eliminate
  • Change

Embracing ChangeInvest time in each of these steps with your staff and you will find that the resultant thinking can create a robust platform for change. Your staff members will become accountable for creating, fulfilling and sustaining their own goals rather than passively relying on you to be the catalyst for all the initiatives.
Your role as ‘Solutioneer in Chief’ will often be welcomed by team members, however it will create dependency on you as the manager and your staff will be blocked from ‘self-propelling’ and enjoying the intrinsic benefits of self-discovery, if they continue to rely on you for providing all the answers. This method makes your staff fully accountable to their own goals.


Much of the book is focussed on the use of strengths-based, open-ended, powerful questions.

It encompasses the premise that people maximise their potential if they are in congruence with their values, principles and beliefs and are ‘in flow’ as they tackle and fulfil their work responsibilities. Staff who are happy in their jobs, feel their jobs have meaning and purpose and have a manageable work/life balance will be productive and loyal. This has the effect of maximising the organisation’s profitability and potential and minimising people attrition.

It is in the nature of many to self-sacrifice and to put their own needs at the back of the queue. It is our responsibility as coaching managers to make sure our people focus on all their self-development needs beyond the organization’s standard performance management metrics.

The idea is that these questions focus people on making themselves accountable for positive contributions in their ecosystem rather than expecting their ecosystem to make a positive difference for them and by doing so, unwittingly promoting an entitlement culture within their Organisation.

Encourage your staff to regularly score themselves on these six questions:

  1. Did I do my best to set clear goals today?
  2. Did I do my best to make progress towards my goals today?
  3. Did I do my best to find meaning today?
  4. Did I do my best to be happy today?
  5. Did I do my best to build positive relationships today?
  6. Did I do my best to be fully engaged today?

Six key questionsThe magic of the word ‘best’ is that it cuts out any excuses around skills and competency development. We all have the ability to do our best to rise to the maximum level of our natural competence and this can be accurately gauged in their self-scoring measures.
Dr Goldsmith surmises that active self-questioning can trigger a resourceful way of interacting with our world. If your staff are serious about creating long-term sustainable change and you are serious in helping them to achieve this, you will be able to convince them to complete these six questions every day.
What gets measured gets focus…if you can keep your staff engaged with this system and offer regular and consistent feedback around these six simple questions, you will be accelerating their opportunities to learn and grow and they will feel fully invested in their work endeavours. Once they start to see improvements in their performance, the system becomes self-sustaining.

The last two parts of the book which focus on effective coaching dialogue are around self-management and people management.

Without an understanding of self, a method for managing self and making accurate self-assessments, it is challenging to build the foundations of a robust coaching dialogue. Coaching requires strong rapport-building skills at its commencement and managers need to be able to act and respond in appropriate ways before their subordinates will trust them and feel confident to engage in honest dialogue.

It is therefore important to find a method for prioritising THINKING>FEELING>ACTING over ACTING>FEELING>THINKING.

Without this in place, harsh or careless words will send your staff into avoiding or blaming behaviours; a pattern that is diametrically opposed to that required for successful coaching conversations.

Dr Goldsmith has created an acronym called AIWATT. The concept of AIWATT is to understand the importance of creating a delaying mechanism in the interval between being triggered by something and responding in a way that helps the situation rather than hinders it.

AIWATT stands for:
‘Am I willing at this time to make the investment required to make a positive difference on this topic?’

So, if you are not going to say anything positive, just pause, reflect and listen without judgement. I have observed AIWATT paying major dividends in interpersonal relationships and witnessed it minimising the energy draining battles that rarely have useful outcomes and sets back efforts to incorporate coaching into management activities.

This is not to discourage supportive feedback in any way. Just remember that supportive feedback works best when people are willing to ‘hear’ you; hence the need to create and sustain an environment in which people feel confident to speak up and have their views heard without suspecting that there might be any adverse reactions or consequences for their willingness to speak up.

Dr Goldsmith discusses a People Management approach taken by the legendary Alan Mulally whose career spanned spells in charge at Boeing and Ford. He is an engineer and at heart, believes in planning, structure and process but above all, in simplicity and consistency.

Every week, without fail, throughout his whole tenure at Ford, he would have a meeting with all his key managers.

The format and structure of the meeting was always the same and simply required the attendees (including Alan Mulally himself) to answer the following six questions:

  1. Where are we going?
  2. Where are you going?
  3. What is going well?
  4. Where can we improve?
  5. How can I help you?
  6. How can you help me?

You will find that by adopting this simple framework with your staff, you will invariably spark a resourceful discussion around specific issues and ensure that they learn to take and accept accountability and at the same time, make you openly accountable to your team.

This approach, which encourages two-way dialogue also encourages recognition and makes employees feel that they are being heard. A coaching culture flourishes around consistency, openness, honesty and transparency. We all inherently understand this but it is creating the conditions for openness to flourish which requires focus, patience and discipline.

Implementing these simple frameworks from ‘Triggers’ act as a strong catalyst to incubate a coaching culture and requires no new structures and processes to implement, beyond the manager’s willingness to embrace it and cascade it through the ecosystem.

I encourage you to test these waters and feel the positive benefits of incorporating the coaching approach into your management practices.

Should you want to find out more about how PPI enables managers to develop their coaching skills contact Gerry Buckley at

°Inspired by the book "Triggers" by Dr Marshal Goldsmith and approved by Dr. Goldsmith.


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