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Put me in Coach!

In my last blog post, I provided commentary on why the annual performance review process/appraisal is so painful for many managers. The advice I gave was to make regular coaching sessions a part of your managerial DNA so that you are providing continuous “performance management” throughout the year. This post will expand on the coaching opportunities we have as managers and how to best exploit those moments. A key concept to understand is that coaching isn’t necessarily a scheduled meeting per se. While it is a good idea to have regular coaching sessions, we mustn’t lose sight of the fact that coaching can, and should, take place at any given opportunity or moment. In fact, it is probably best to think of coaching as part of your daily life as a manager. Great sports coaches do not wait for weeks or months to coach their players on how to improve – it is often done in the heat of the game, practice the next day or in a 1:1 (closed door) session. Great coaches identify performance that requires improvement and coaches their player/team member up on how to reach that performance level. Just as importantly, great coaches also identify performance that is meeting/exceeding expectations and coach on how to continue to maintain that level of performance.

Ok, so let’s assume I have convinced you that adopting coaching as part of your management practice is the way to go. I need to let you know that in order to be successful, you have to WANT to do this. It can’t be a check in the box, or something you approach with cynicism or skepticism. You need to want to coach on a regular basis in order to help your employees improve and succeed – it is an investment of your time and theirs. Alright, so I still have you…..let’s now define coaching. In the business world, coaching is basically communication between you and your employee, where you speak for about 30% of the time and listen for 70%. You will identify what performance areas are in need of improving, identify what level of performance is required/expected and work with the employee to provide the support/tools necessary for them to be successful.

It is important that in order to make this part of your managerial DNA, coaching has both informal and formal elements. Meaning, I encourage you to engage your employees in those daily, “in the moment” coaching sessions whereby you identify something that requires an adjustment, or you have identified something done well and you coach on maintaining that level of excellence. This is informal and done in a safe way – you are not talking about a performance review or a potential impact to their pay raise they may be getting, it is just a regular part of the business day. That way, more formal coaching sessions, once established, just become a natural extension of your daily coaching.

When coaching, the old front line leadership model of focus on the issue not the person, is the best approach. I generally advise my clients to follow this basic model:

1. Identify the performance issue – what, specifically, did the employee do well and needs to continue doing OR what result/behaviour do they need to improve upon. Providing specific examples are key to an objective, fact-based, issue focused conversation.
2. What was the impact – based on your observations, their performance results, etc. what was the overall impact to the employee in their job? To the department? To the company? To the client? This is a critical part that links their performance to a broader organizational impact.
3. Listen – once you have completed the first two steps, it is important that you listen. Give the employee an opportunity to respond, comment, clarify, etc. This is the listening part that is so difficult for all of us as managers – but it is the part that gets the employee engaged.
4. Circle back to the employee’s goals/objectives/KPI’s – tie points 1 and 2 together by bringing everything back to their goals and how they align with what the department/company is trying to achieve. This also further cements the impact statement you made in point #2.
5. Work collaboratively on the way ahead – get the employee to identify ways they could have handled the situation differently or perhaps achieved the desired result overall. (i.e. how to achieve a better quality product, on time delivery, etc.). Have them commit to what they will do going forward to meet the performance expectations that have been set. Close by summarizing what has been agreed to and reinforce what you will do to support them in reaching the desired level of performance.

Believe it or not, these types of conversations can be had in a 10-15 minute timeframe. Remember – regular, effective employee coaching is the cornerstone of a performance based organization. It needs to be approached as a year round activity.

Image courtesy of photostock/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net


2 Responses

  1. […] The manager needs to be directly involved with setting goals and objectives with the employee, coaching and developing them, providing training and development where required and removing obstacles to […]

  2. […] they make mistakes…of course. But that is where if you have a supportive environment where regular coaching and communication takes place and there is accountability, employees WILL learn from their mistakes […]

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