In employer has minimum education requirements for a position and expects an employee to have the hard skills they need. Underperformance is often due to a lack of soft skills, like leadership, time management, conflict resolution, decision-making, and problem-solving. Without helping employees learn these techniques, they will continue to underperform.
One of the most significant performance management mistakes practitioners make is assuming that an employee lacks the capacity to do their job without investigating why.
Enter the coaching process, which has been proven to be a game-changer for many employees. To maximize it, here are some tips to utilize:
Establishing a coaching relationship
Employees become suspicious about the coaching process, as many assume it is part of a disciplinary process aimed at getting them out of their position because of underperformance. Therefore, they are likely to be reticent to share their shortcomings in their jobs for fear of reprisals. A coach should ensure that their client understands the confidential nature of their sessions and that information gathered will not be shared around the water cooler.
Your first responsibility as a coach or the manager as a mentor is building a relationship of trust with an employee to ensure that your coaching has the maximum effect. Any suggestions you make will not be entirely effective if you do not have all facts.
Creating a connection and assuring your client about the nature and purpose of coaching is essential from the beginning. It might take one or two sessions before you get anywhere near the nuts and bolts of issues around which you will be coaching.
Find out about your client and their personal life as underperformance problems could be unrelated to work, and you will not know that without investigating it. When your client gives you an answer, ask clarity seeking questions in a way that encourages them to share more with you.
People communicate in more than one way. Their words are only a small part of this process as their non-verbal communication tells a story of its own. The same applies to a coach. If your body language indicates disinterest and a desire to be someone else, the employee will not share everything with you.
Conduct coaching sessions in a venue where there are minimal distractions and interruptions. Put your other thoughts aside and focus on your client and what they are saying. Set this as a ground rule from the beginning. Both parties should remain focused on the matter at hand during coaching sessions.
When it is clear to an employee that you are not only hearing them but also listening, their trust in you will increase. This will make your sessions far more fruitful and pave the path to completing any coaching process.
Having gained an employee’s trust, the coach can now observe the employee in action to assess their performance and identify potential shortcomings to address in coaching sessions. Doing this without making it too evident to the employee’s colleagues is essential as it can be embarrassing, which will destroy the trust relationship.
Despite some obstacles, an evaluation of the employee doing their job is necessary to ensure that your coaching targets the development areas. Brainstorm ideas about how best to go about this task that provides maximum performance data and minimum disruptions.
Afterward, discuss your observations with your client to make them aware of what you saw. Often, people are not fully aware of some of their behaviors, and pointing it out could help them adjust it. You could also start by asking your client what they think you might have observed that could do with some improvement.
Encouraging your client to think introspectively and do a self-analysis teaches them to do so in future situations. This independence means that they could learn to identify and rectify shortcomings without the need for additional intervention.
Collaboration and goal setting
Coaching processes should be collaborative as a coach’s job is not to lecture an employee but rather to find ways to assist them. When an employee feels that they are being consulted, there is a greater chance that they will take any advice you offer onboard and implement it.
Once you have an idea of what your client can do to improve their performance, have a frank discussion about it. Do not approach them with a list of goals and objectives you need them to meet. The coaching process is not dictatorial, and an employee will not respond well to this strategy.
Instead, in your discussions, encourage the employee to develop goals and objectives they think are imperative to improve their job performance based on what you have pointed out to them. Encourage them to set goals using the SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timebound) principle.
Once you and the employee have determined a clearly defined set of goals, your task is to monitor progress. This should not be done from a distance. For example, if an employee is underperforming due to a lack of output, your evaluation should not be limited to seeing that their figures have improved.
Instead, have direct meetings with your client to discuss where they feel things have gone well and what areas they continue to struggle with. Offer additional input and expand on the goals that have been achieved.
Following the example above, if an employee’s output has increased by 10%, set a new target of an additional 10% to build on progress continuously. An incremental approach with milestones feels more attainable to your client.
While the temptation may be there to focus on areas where your client is not showing improvement, do not neglect those in which there has been some success. Discuss why there has been progress in some aspects of their performance and show the employee that you are pleased about it. Never minimize the value of praise as a motivator and always try to start a session on a positive note.
An employee who might still be slightly mistrustful will find your willingness to take time to recognize the good in what they have done an indication that you are on their side and want them to succeed. This is a primary driver a coaching program’s success.
Once success has been acknowledged, discuss areas where there is room for improvement. Look at what triggered the successes you mentioned at the beginning of your session and see if the tactics and strategies used to attain them could be applied to aspects of their job your client still needs to focus on.
Give continuous feedback
As mentioned before, coaching is a process that requires frequent interaction between the coach and the affected employee. Coaching works because it is a personalized approach specifically targeted at a single person and their struggles. The coached employee needs to understand what you perceive as progress and advice you are offering to build on it.
Your client cannot make the changes necessary to enhance their work performance without your feedback. Therefore, your face-to-face sessions are vital as part of the coaching process.
People function better and want to improve their capabilities when they know someone rooting is for them. Take advantage of this by providing constructive feedback. Your feedback should never be aimed at discouraging the employee. Instead, it should bolster their self-esteem and make them want to do even better.
Ask for feedback
The employee you are coaching should feel free to express themselves during your sessions without fear that you will breach the confidentiality of your discussions. When they feel safe to do this, ask for feedback about your sessions. This could prove invaluable in paving the way forward for your client.
Your first approach might not be successful as each person you coach is an individual with unique characteristics and needs. Some strategies work on most people, but your client may not be ‘most people’ and requires a differentiated approach. Therefore, encourage feedback from your client to see if you need to change tactics to provide optimal help.
As a lifelong learner, you should welcome feedback as it helps in your self-development as a coach. This feedback could make you a better coach and help you vary your strategies in future coaching situations. No coach is perfect, and a willingness to listen to feedback and learn from it is an additional demonstration to your client that you take your work with them seriously.
Do not stick to a rigid mandate
Although the employee might have been identified as needing coaching due to an aspect of job performance, do not let this limit the matters on which you address them. There might be other issues you recognize during the coaching process that you can help them with for future reference.
While your coaching goal might be specific and clear, remember that this is a multi-faceted human being you are working with. Their needs might reveal themselves as the process unfolds, and digressing slightly to help resolve them is part of a holistic approach.
Any constructive advice you offer during coaching can trigger the changes your client needs to improve their job performance. Above all, consider the core principle of coaching to help your client become the best possible version of themselves.
During your coaching sessions, look for clients who might themselves learn to be coaches and help other employees. With some training, they could offer their struggling colleagues some unique insights. No one can understand underperformance better than someone who was once in that situation. They can use their experiences to help others, thereby fulfilling the coaching mandate of passing knowledge forward and encouraging others to help those that they can.
Tobias Foster works for the reputed online academic writing service, Assignment help UK, as the lead writer and editor. His expertise is in writing college paper, essays, thesis and dissertations. He provides online tuitions to budding authors and writers and is currently writing a book on venture capital for student entrepreneurs, which he plans to release around December this year.