Some studies show that people in supervisory positions spend less than 10% of their work time coaching their staff. Assuming that’s accurate, there’s no wonder that performance problems persist and key talent walks out the door. Formal annual reviews just aren’t enough. Think of them as one slice of bread on a sandwich. What about the other slice? What about the filling? Getting the best out of your employees is critical to your organization’s survival and ability to thrive. Proactive coaching, done well, is the answer. Here are ten tips to strengthen your approach:
- Build a respectful, trusting relationship. A quality relationship with your employees lays the foundation for any coaching that takes place. If you don’t have the right relationship, you can’t pull it off.
- Identify problems or areas for growth. Select one (or two) that, if fixed or achieved, makes the biggest positive impact. Focusing on too many issues at once overwhelms people. Clarify and plan your message.
- Schedule a series of meetings. Be sure to explain the purpose of these meetings, specifically the benefits to individual staffers, the team, and the company at large.
- Communicate observations and expectations. In a calm, neutral, sincere tone of voice begin by highlighting particular employee strengths and how they’ve added value. Then move into areas for improvement or, in the case of shining stars, your vision for taking folks to an even higher level. Give employees a chance to discuss their concerns and goals too.
- Explore options for moving forward. Remember: Usually there are several ways to correct a problem, increase work load, or acquire a skill. Ask employees for their ideas before sharing your own. Wherever possible, offer choice.
- Challenge them. Your job is to stretch people—not keep them comfortable. Let folks know that you are raising the bar AND that you are there to support them during the climb.
- Create a single page action plan. Do it together. Be sure to include the desired outcome(s), objectives, strategies and/or tactics, resources needed, a time line, and success criteria. Put it in writing.
- Get their buy-in. A plan without employee agreement and commitment is nothing but a fancy document. Negotiate where you can. Show people how working the plan helps them win too. You can’t minimize WIFM.
- Listen to what isn’t being said. Silence during staff coaching sessions isn’t golden. It may mean confusion or resistance. Periodically during these conversations check in by asking: “How is all of this landing with you?” Or, “Tell me what you are thinking right now.”
- Follow up. Developing an action plan and sending folks off to work it by themselves without following up at certain intervals down the road is a recipe for failure. Let people know that they must demonstrate progress every two weeks or every thirty days. Establish dates for emails or face to face meetings.
Coaching is a different approach to developing your staff. It involves teaching, guiding, providing feedback, mentoring, and advocacy. Organizations that incorporate coaching into their work days on a regular basis generally set themselves apart from their competition in terms of employee engagement, talent retention, process flow, and profits. Of course the decision to coach—or not—is totally up to YOU.