Phil Ayres

Appraisal, Coaching and Mentoring – What works to produce great leaders?

By Dr Phil Ayres

Click here for the video summary.

Read the review by Dr. Mohammad Ali Merchant.

Associate Medical Director

Leeds Teaching Hospital Trust.

(Leadership Resilience in Emergency Care Workshop, Leeds)

Reviewed by Dr. Mohammad Ali Merchant, Clinical Fellow, ED

Ms. Amy CAWTHORNE, Advanced Nurse Practitioner ED

Leeds Teaching Hospitals.

Phil Ayres has a number of years of experience coaching and mentoring working firstly as a GP then spending 20 years as a Public Health Consultant at Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust (LTHT). For the last 17 of these he has also been an Associate Medical Director in the Trust.


  • Role of Coaching
  • Good Leaders as coaches
  • How coaching works
  • Why coaching is successful
  • Coaching tailored according to subjects’ needs


His talk focused on interactions on a one to one basis and the role of the leader coaching others and aiming to inspire motivation and self-will in trainees.

Phil is the Responsible Officer for medical revalidation in LTHT and believes that effective appraisal is already embedded and works in practice. However Phil felt that good appraisers have the same skills as good coaches and as good bosses/leaders.

He stated that skills of coaching are very effective and explored in his talk what coaching is, why it works, what good leaders do in relation to coaching. There was also some reflection on the concept of ‘simultaneous loose/tight properties’ as he believes these are a capacity all great leaders have.

What is coaching?

When coaching anyone it is important to remember that everyone is different and the way they learn is complicated. It is impossible for someone to tell us how to be effective so good leaders should help people figure this out for themselves. Effective interpersonal skills are essential to facilitate this. It also needs basic human respect, being good in the moment and knowing how to react. There is no right way but using basic principles and techniques of coaching can help you get there.

Phil outlined his Basic Principles of Coaching as:

  1. The client owns the process (they must be engaged to continue, they must own it)
  2. The client sets the agenda (this can be hard)
  3. The client is resourceful (they tackle challenges every day)
  4. The client knows best
  5. Work with the whole client (address other life factors if they are distracting and take account of them)
  6. No action, no coaching (must generate action, even if it’s taking action to address why there was no action!)

It should also be noted that Phil strongly emphasised that there must be distinction between appraisal and performance management. They are completely separate entities and should be tackled away from each other. Coaching skills can be used in either appraisal or performance management.


Why does coaching work?

Phil felt that coaching is the most effective personal development but it must be done right. A relationship of trust is needed and the client must be sure the coach is working in their interest. However challenge is crucial, if (as a coach) you see the client say one thing and doing something else it must be established why. Offering this challenge and asking difficult questions is essential to increase the client’s self-understanding, self-knowledge and self-efficacy.

The coach must also be honest with themselves and although it is difficult if they don’t think the client is trying what they (the client) has set out to achieve, the coach must challenge this. In doing this they still need to keep the client’s trust and belief that they are working in their best interests but this questioning can make or break relationships.

Having the right goals is also essential and this can be achieved by being open about what is real so that you both don’t chase goals that are fantastical in some way.

Phil then gave a scenario of coaching for a client called Alex. Alex agreed with the coach that he needs to confront his boss on being delegated inappropriate tasks but when he had opportunity to confront him he didn’t.

What is the most powerful question to ask Alex as to what stopped him from addressing the issue?

This can be hard to know but unlocking the client’s potential allows them to deal with the problem in the real world. You need to give them motivation to tackle the problem, and you can sometimes gauge their commitment using a 1-10 scale.

Questions suggested included:

  • How were you feeling when it came to challenge the boss? (This could help recognise his emotional triggers leading towards coping strategy.)
  • What do you think got in the way?
  • What is the obstacle?
  • What might have happened if you had gone through with it?
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how committed are you to challenging the boss about this?


Do good leaders coach?

There are characteristics that both possess, they:

Know themselves, know their strengths and work on their weaknesses.

Achieve a good balance and know the people around them. They tune the way they behave and what they ask for according to the individual they are working with.

They also ask great questions using appreciative inquiry not just finding what went wrong. By systematically finding out what went well, analysing this and fine tuning it means more people can find out what ‘the right thing’ is.

Good leaders have an appreciation of what works. They know how to deliver through others, asking questions, encouraging them to speak up when things aren’t right and make improvement suggestions.

This encourages others to fix it themselves. To be able to deliver through others empowers them, encouraging them to remain optimistic and never give up.

Good leaders are already coaches.


Simultaneous loose/tight properties

These characteristics allow good leaders to keep an eye on where we are going and never letting go of this direction but at the same time letting people get there in the way that they find themselves. Keeping hold of the goal but letting go of the detail. It links closely with the mantra of “Just don’t tell people how to do their jobs as this demotivates them.”


Take home Message and what I enjoyed

Phil delivered this much needed talk about coaching very well. All the years of experience were evident in his talk. He eloquently managed to make the audience understand the leadership role everyone has in their own settings. The prospects of developing good leadership skills and coaching others to maintain their clear paths as well as guiding them in the right direction to achieve their goals is of utmost significance. The coach doesn’t have to take decisions on his client’s behalf and rather needs to empower him to take the right decisions at the right time.


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