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Getting Your Coach On! – How To Have An Effective Coaching Conversation

Getting Your Coach On! – How To Have An Effective Coaching Conversation

You’re going to have occasions as a manager or leader when you’re going to have performance related conversations with employee’s who are not performing to your expectations, or, are doing a good job but need some refinement.  This is a firm discussion when it needs to be; as well as one where you show a real interest in their thoughts and opinions while focusing on a key outcome.

It is not a (potentially) witnessed performance related meeting as part of a performance management programme. It is one where you believe the coachee has real potential and you want to invest in them. The purpose is to bring an employee back on track by making them aware they are not working to their potential, you want to help and agreeing on how you can assist them as their leader or manager. In other words, making them aware there needs to be positive change and you have their interests at heart, as well as the businesses. Alternatively this is simply an attitudinal or behavioural “conversation” where better processes or behaviours are discussed and agreed on.

I always find these meetings to be so much more effective where there is preparation and a frame work, with a conclusion, agreed outcomes and then a follow up meeting. I would expect that any manager is having regular set one on ones with their team members and if you are doing this, well done. Hope then this article will be a refresher or a reminder to operate with structure and follow up. It’s proven that coaching conversations are best carried out on mutual preparation, so make a face to face time to meet and give the coachee some insight as to the basis of the discussion.

So, as an overview, a coaching conversation is based on these key points.

1) Set the tone and state the purpose

This is not two mates chatting. Forget the social stuff and immediately state the purpose with seriousness and intent. For example “John, as you know the purpose of this discussion is to look at better ways of planning and prioritising tasks. At the end of the meeting we will agree on your improvements moving forward.” By doing this you emphasise the formality of the occasion. Also done over time your staff member will come to realise that these meetings mean it’s an occasion to listen, learn and converse seriously with you. There’s no reason why it can’t be friendly and conversational in nature once you get going but it’s up to you to lead the meeting and set the tone throughout. With a performing coachee who you are looking to “tweak” – let them set the agenda by asking them about possible coaching subjects – for example a “how are things going with you” discussion basis.

2) Share your observations and then switch the floor.

Communicate your observations thusly – “I’ve observed that you seem to spend time on non-valuable activities” – don’t make a common mistake here of saying something like “it’s been reported to me, or others have suggested that, or I’ve been told that” because it’s ambiguous and can immediately gain a defensive response = “oh what, who said that!” Always make it between you and the coachee. Then get the coachee to respond with their feedback – this is your turn to listen.

3) Discuss the impact and the bigger picture 

Bring in real and confronting truths about where things are at – for example - “To carry on doing things the way you are will affect your sales results and therefore your standing in the team. The impact on the business is a loss of sales revenue and opportunity leading to growth of the business.” Then gain some commitment to moving forward together in a better manner – “my expectation is that you will perform in the following manner”

4) Set expectations, gain agreement, 

This is where you agree on the required improvements and talk about how it’s going to happen. Ask the coachee to tell you how things are going to change for the better and to add their feedback on the results they expect. You can then fine trim the requirements and agree. So we’re agreed then that you will prepare in the car before sales calls and in this preparation you will review prior purchases , decide on the specials you want to discuss and during the call you will…..etc. 

5) Set follow up

Set a time in this meeting to meet again and discuss outcomes. In the next meeting you can receive feedback, review performance and continue to set performance parameters. 

6) End positively 

Make your coachee aware you believe them competent and skilled. Empower them with your closing comments and let them know you will be following their improvement with interest. Show them passion and commitment to working with them on continued growth. Always finish these meetings warmly. Perhaps indicate the end of the meeting by moving to a social chat about a non-work related subject.

When coaching – be wary of these common mistakes

  1. Leave enough time for the meeting. 1HR at least
  2. Remove the emotion – if your coachee gets emotional then stop the content meeting until they have reset themselves. Make it clear you require them to be calm and responsive, not emotional.
  3. Doing all the talking
  4.  Letting the coachee switch blame – it always comes back to them. How they can change, what they can do better, how they can affect their situation. Encourage self-awareness in your people where ever possible.
  5. Not follow up. You must have a follow up meeting.

The great thing about coaching is it’s a great way to learn about your team and your people and is an essential skill for a leader striving for growth. I’ll leave you with a quote from the Harvard Business Review “The goal of coaching is the goal of good management: to make the most of a company’s most valuable resource”.

Jeremy Wilson