The Five-Minute Coach

"Establish a shift from problem-thinking to an outcome focus."

- The Five-Minute Coach, page 6

Coaches Lynne Cooper and Mariette Castellino present The Five-Minute Coach as a helpful step-by-step coaching guide to achieve amazing results fast. The book is meant to help busy managers, and internal coaches, improve job performance and fulfillment through a simple but effective approach. The idea is that, by asking specific questions, managers stop fixing problems themselves and empower their team to take charge of their own issues. While asking questions is not a new tool, I found the straightforward approach offered in this book to be profound. The questions, asked by the interviewer, draw attention to the interviewee’s own words to expand thinking and let the individual establish a shift from problem-thinking to an outcome focus.

The concept is based on the work of David Grove – the originator of Clean Language – and his idea that change must come from within each person. Integral to success is the foundation piece that it can be “preferable to first step backwards, sideways, upwards, or downwards in order to see things from a different perspective and move forward from a difference place.” Breaking through straight-line thinking is the goal and this is inside work done from within each person’s mind and body. It can seem appealing to instead, as a coach, rescue or solve your coachee’s problems. This is where the depth of the Five-Minute Coach is revealed, through its apparent simplicity. Ask specific questions. Stay neutral. Let the individual solve the dilemma.

The Five-Minute Coach is presented in a clean white designed cover to underline its intent: Clean Language. A hint of red implies there is action underneath. The book is well put together and easy to flip through with lots of clear headings and sections. Helpful charts and exercises take the reader through sample conversations using a series of questions meant to empower people to make a step change in the way they work. I like the idea of asking questions in any situation – work or personal life.  When it comes to creating change the answers are already inside a person waiting to be released.

So, how do you become an effective Five-Minute Coach?

The Big Idea

The Big Idea: The biggest takeaway from the book

Ensure a commitment for change originates within the individual

"Moving someone’s thinking from a problem to an outcome – from something unwanted to something wanted – is very potent."
- The Five-Minute Coach, page 38

Cooper and Castellino offer ten important five-minute coach behaviours to help underpin a session. They are:

  1. Pay close attention
  2. Use only the Five-Minute Coach questions
  3. Avoid the normal rules of conversation
  4. Repeat the coachee’s words
  5. Disregard grammatical rules
  6. Take notes
  7. Limit eye contact
  8. Encourage the coachee
  9. Use voice to influence
  10. Stay cool, calm and collected

Sitting with these ten behaviours requires an ability to adapt to discomfort, or learn a new way of being in certain situations. This approach means taking the self out of the equation to become a conduit, which creates a new skill for the coach.

How can you use the five-minute coach behaviours to improve performance? Keep reading…

Insight #1

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

And what would you like to have happen?

"Direct attention to the interviewee’s own words and deepen and develop her thinking."
- The Five-Minute Coach, page 7

The first question, “And what would you like to have happen?”, is a powerful tool that the authors suggest the reader practice several times a day, in all kinds of situations. I love this question and have been adding it to conversations regularly. I also ask myself this question to move forward in my own life – personal and professional. By thinking through what you want to have happen you create action steps that move you towards your goals.

The authors offer five stages and a purpose and questions for each stage to take one through the five minute conversation.

  1. Identifying an outcome – And what would you like to have happen?
  2. Choosing the best outcome – And when [outcome in coachee’s words], then what happens?
  3. Discovering more about the outcome – And when [new outcome] what kind of [word or phrase from outcome]?
  4. Action planning – And what needs to happen for [final outcome]?
  5. Motivate to act – And when [first thing] then what happens?

There is lots of repeating of the questions, and more word changes to the questions are shown in the actual book. I found the exercise of looking through all the questions, and case study examples to be quite helpful. This process is definitely an approach that coaches – or anyone – will want to add to their repertoire.

As the questions progress, the coach incorporates the coachee’s words into part of each sentence, like this:

And when [last answer], then what happens?

The bold part of the question stays the same while the parts in the square brackets are the coachee’s words. The word “and” lets the other person know you hear and accept what has been said.

Insight #2

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Developing as a Coach

"Coaching helps people learn from the inside out, not the other way around."
- The Five-Minute Coach, page 195

The principles of good coaching is what The Five-Minute Coach is all about. Keeping clear boundaries, from another person, is not even an issue when adopting this approach. Here are the outcomes you can expect:


  • Coaching helps people learn from the inside out, not the other way around. It assumes that people have innate capabilities and therefore do not need to be constantly told what to do.
  • Focusing on outcomes – what could be, rather than what is – is fundamental to the unleashing of people’s potential and upgrading their performance.
  • Coaching encourages individuals, through support and increased self-awareness, to take personal responsibility for creating their own opportunities, making their own choices and deciding on their own actions.
  • An individual’s self-belief grows through the coaching process, and new thinking, feelings and behaviours emerge as a result.

There is a feeling of relief when you realize you do not have to take on other people’s problems – and that you are not really being helpful when you try. And, there is a sense of fulfillment in knowing that simply by asking questions you are enabling another person to grow. I now keep The Five-Minute Coach in sight so I can quickly refer to the questions, and examples, to help me help others. Questions are a powerful tool and when used to empower others they become even more potent.

In the comments below, let us know… And what would you like to have happen?

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Tracy Shea-Porter

ABOUT Tracy Shea-Porter

Tracy is an entrepreneur, coach, trainer, writer, speaker, and improviser. She provides the motivation and action plan for businesses to grow. With a new marketing communications plan, and a sales support program designed to get results, Tracy will take your business to the next level.
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