What is “live-action coaching?” What are some of the advantages and disadvantages?

According to O’Neill (2007), the four stages of coaching are: 

1. Behind the scenes coaching of the client 

2. Observation of the client in a business meeting with their direct reports and in one-on-one sessions with staff 

3. Live-action coaching of the client and their direct reports in a business meeting and live-action coaching of the client and their direct reports in one-on-one sessions with staff members. 

4. Live-action coaching of only the client in a business meeting with their team or in one-on-one sessions with staff members. 

Often coaches and clients only engage at the Stage 1 level. But there are many benefits and challenges to including the other stages as well. 

Advantages and disadvantages of coaching during stages 2-4 

● Stage 2 - advantage - being able to see the client/leader live in action. This would help to inform the feedback in the coaching sessions. Disadvantage: It may seem awkward for the other members to have a silent observer in their meetings. Some people may feel uncomfortable and may not act as they naturally would. 

● Stage 3 - advantage - is a good transition for the coach going from saying nothing to participating with the whole group. Also, it sets the stage for the coach to give the client/leader feedback in stage 4. Disadvantage - it would be possible to forget your role as the client’s coach (and not the coach of anyone else in the team or group). You are now offering feedback to the group. It would also be possible to undermine the client’s authority or possibly “overstep” in your role. You may say or do too much or even err the other direction and say or do too little. 

● Stage 4 - advantage - this could effect change very quickly if done correctly. The corrections could be made “in vivo” rather than “in vitro.” Disadvantage - now, providing feedback to the client/leader may be challenging to shift gears and not give feedback to the group. Primarily if opportunities arose for team process-related shifts or suggestions to other team members. It might be tough to gauge how passive or active to be. Obviously, you are hoping that your client will perform in alignment with their goals and the things that you’ve worked on. But you wouldn’t want to jump in too soon as, again, you may undermine the leader’s authority. Still, you also don’t want to wait until a moment has passed that could’ve been a great learning opportunity. 


O’Neill, B. (2007). Executive coaching with backbone and heart: A systems approach to engaging leaders with their challenges (2nd. ed.). Jossey-Bass. 

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