Accelerate, Save, or Say Goodbye (part 1 of 2)

By Tom Davidson

Why do you need to learn about coaching and counseling as a leader? Find out why here, and the principles you need to do so! 

As a supervisor, you are the front line of organizational performance, which means you need to be prepared for two critical conversations, coaching and counseling employees for one or more of three reasons: 

     1 – Accelerate – As you have certainly discovered, there is little slack in organization’s today. People who used to “get by” with average but not excellent performance will soon find themselves in hot water if they don’t step up to their fuller potential.

     2 – Save – One of the most surprising (and uncomfortable) parts of becoming a first-time manager is the fact that you have to confront performance problems with people who used to be your peers. As much as you might wish to do so, you can’t turn away from this challenge for long if you want to keep them on track.

     3 – Say Goodbye – If you supervise others for very long, you’re certain to have someone (probably about 10 percent of your team) who doesn’t want to, won’t or can’t get the job done to standard or better. While they may have gotten “a pass” in the past, times have changed, and you will have to get them on track or help the organization say goodbye.

Coaching is for employees who are doing fine, average or proficient but could do even better. Counseling is for employees whose behavior is unacceptable and are currently on a path to termination if they don’t adjust their course. Today’s blog is on coaching, and tomorrow’s is about counseling.

The Coaching Conversation 
You won’t have any trouble finding a coaching model in the popular literature, usually a five- or seven-step process for conversing with someone who could do even better at work in some way. For novice managers, these can be thought of as paint-by-the-numbers methodologies, but for the more advance leader, I like to think in terms of principles. 

Principles are generally accepted rules, scientific doctrines, or laws of human nature that experienced managers weave into their coaching conversations. Much as architects design buildings using the same laws of physics (yet arrive at very different looking buildings), artful leaders learn to employ the following principles in their own unique ways: 

     1- Learn, understand and emphasize the employee’s own goals, interests and motivations. Without knowing or pointing to his or her intrinsic motivations, you will get very little traction in any coaching or counseling conversation.

     2 – Clarify organizational goals, expectations and requirements, and ask questions to ensure they are fully understood.

 3 – Provide balanced feedback on what they do well and need to do better. Use specific behavioral evidence and patterns to make your observations stick. While there is no perfect mix of kudos versus critical feedback, most people need to hear what they do well at the rate of about three or four to one.

 4 – Find out what barriers are impeding performance, whether there are skills deficiencies, motivational challenges, misunderstandings, or lack of tools and resources. Then close the gap with plans that provide win-win solutions to the employee and the organization.

5 – Develop a plan together. This is the most creative part of the process. The more the associate generates the ideas and the more they are linked to their personal goals and interests, the more likely they will accelerate their performance and the better you have done your job.

If you do a good job of coaching, you will minimize the chances that you will have to have the counseling conversation, the subject of my next blog. What other principles have you found useful in the coaching process at work?

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