What is a Coach?

Your coach is not your academic advisor who counsels you on your academic career at Purdue. A coach will be someone else and his/her role is very different. A coach in this program is a College of Agriculture faculty or administrative professional staff member who has completed the Coach’s Training Workshop. His/her role is to support, encourage, and guide you in your leadership development program. He/she will offer feedback on your Personal Development Program, help you identify ways to meet your leadership goals, review your leadership experiences and assist you in completing the requirements of the program.

It is important to remember that this leadership development is your program. It is up to you to contact your coach, keep him/her informed, and meet with him/her as needed.

When you first meet with your coach, again, it is your responsibility to contact your coach, go to the meeting prepared. Read this manual, be familiar with the program and think about your goals and how you intend to meet them. It would be useful if you first take the Leadership Self Assessment to think about your leadership abilities and interests. Identify areas that you would like to develop and how you might go about it. If you are prepared, you will have a more meaningful meeting with your coach. Your coach can then provide you with feedback.


  • Be a College of Agriculture faculty or administrative professional staff member that has completed the Coaches Training Workshop.
  • Meet with student upon student’s request (at least two times per semester).
  • Ensure the student has developed a timeline that will guarantee completion of the certificate requirements by the student’s expected graduation from the university.
  • Promote the importance of beginning the personal development plan during the first weeks of program and making revisions throughout program; ensure that the student updates his/her personal development plan regularly. The PDP is the certificate program’s foundation and should be one of the first steps completed.
  • Ensure that the student is writing reflections of each leadership-related experience and that the student is also maintaining his or her portfolio. Ask to see drafts of the student’s reflections and portfolio throughout the certificate process. The reflections need to be sufficient in depth and quality in order to meet the coach’s standard of what is necessary to demonstrate the student’s development and growth in the leadership skills and attributes areas.
  • Provide feedback on student’s progress regarding:
    • completion status of requirements (use Requirement Checklist on page 58-59).
    • development of leadership skills through quality experiences.
    • reflections of leadership-related experiences.
  • Suggest ways for student to improve including:
    • methods, in addition to courses and workshops, to assist in developing the leadership skills and attributes.
    • application of the leadership skills and attributes in different settings.
  • Encourage student to prepare for meetings with coach by:
    • revising personal development plan and reflections to ensure quality work.
    • coming prepared to discuss outline, progress, ideas, questions, experiences, or difficulties.
  • Do more than check off requirements; challenge, engage and expand the student’s thinking, and make the student demonstrate growth and changed behaviors.
  • Review student’s status and requirements prior to meetings.
  • Conduct mid-program review at least two semesters before completion of the Leadership Development Certificate Program.
  • Expect to spend approximately four hours per semester per student you are coaching:
    • two hours per semester in meetings.
    • two hours per semester engaging in such activities as responding to e‑mails, preparing for student meetings, assessing student progress.
  • Communicate with the Leadership Development Certificate Program Committee if questions come up or if the status of the relationship has changed; be prepared to submit a progress report about one year into the student’s program.
  • Provide feedback to the Leadership Development Certificate Program Committee on ways to improve the program.

​Coaching Discussion Ideas

Coaching is a relationship during which you, the coach, provide motivation and direction to lead the student’s individual improvement.  The following are ideas for discussion starters and recommended strategies during coaching conversations.

Conversation Ideas for First Meeting:

  • Create a coaching contract (sample items include: expectations of each other; time, location, length of discussions; best form of communication; individual responsibilities for each discussion).
  • Conduct a mock interview with the student by asking questions:
  • Tell me about yourself.
  • What are your strengths and/or weaknesses in this particular area?
  • What is the most valuable lesson you will learned from this experience?
  • Place strong emphasis on personal development plan (PDP).  The PDP should be completed the first semester of the program.
  • Discuss student’s timeline or plan for completing certification program.
Conversation Ideas for Discussing the Development of the PDP:

  • What group/team activities do you want to participate in (or use toward the certificate)?
  • What classes are you interested in taking?
  • Which conferences are you interested in attending, when are they, and do they fit into your schedule?
  • How will you complete your personal development plan (through a class or on your own)? When will you do it?
  • Instead of asking why the student participated in activities, say, “Tell me more.”
  • Don’t say: “You should have…” or “I think you should...” Instead, say “Maybe you could...,” “Another option may be...,” or “What if we tried to...”
  • Ask the student to do a pre-reflection as well as reflection.  This means asking the student to project or predict what he or she will get out of an experience or to hypothesize what will happen before the experience and then reflect on the results.
  • Other questions may include, but are not limited to:
  • In what areas do you need to improve and grow?
  • Where are you really going to be able to stretch yourself?
  • How will you apply this successful experience to future opportunities
  • Remember, the PDP must be submitted to the Leadership Development Certificate Program Committee at the end of the first semester of the program.
Conversation Ideas for Continuous Discussion on Personal Development Plan and Portfolio:

  • Ensure the student is updating PDP regularly.  Reflections should be written following each leadership-related experience.  A Reflection Activity Information Sheet on page 38 has been provided to help them reflect on each activity.
  • Review personal assessment results and provide feedback.  Results should be used to complete PDP.
  • Discuss reasons for choosing each improvement objective.
  • Discuss how PDP ties into Leadership Development Certificate Program effort and which skills student is focusing on.
  • At least one or two meetings per semester may be necessary in order to review PDP (and to verify that student is making progress on it!!).
  • Review portfolio.  Does the portfolio sufficiently demonstrate growth in the four stated goals?  Student should be able to explain portfolio.
  • Ask the student: “How can you articulate the entire process as a whole? How will you describe your leadership skills in an interview?  What has been the most beneficial part of this process?  How will you continue to learn and practice leadership once you leave Purdue?
  • Remember the coach determines if and when the student is eligible for the Certificate of Completion.
Recommended Coaching Strategies

  • Share your experiences before you begin coaching. Develop a relationship in which both parties know and respect each other.
  • Sit side-by-side or at an angle, rather than face-to-face.
  • Highlight the student’s accomplishments.
  • Provide support for future tasks and experiences.
  • Talk genuinely with the student. To understand the student’s PDP, you must get to know them.
  • Keep the conversation informal and friendly, rather than rigid and      rehearsed.
  • Offer suggestions on how to improve or ask what other options the student may have taken, rather than telling the student what to do.
  • At the end of discussions, ask the student for suggestions on how to improve your coaching.
  • At the end of discussions, ask the student to write two or three things he or she has learned to reinforce learning and create satisfaction for discussions.