Step 5 and 6 – Two Powerful Steps to Impact Employee Performance!
Step 5 is the most critical of all steps in the coaching model. I believe it is the step that leaders struggle with the most. Sports coaches don’t struggle with this one at all. Why? They understand the power of the consequence as a natural motivator for their players and use it often. For instance, the coach may ask, “do you want to continue to start at your position?…Then you must learn how to stop fumbling the ball.” “You must be on time to practice or be in your room at curfew or you will not be able to play in our next game”, the coach may say. Many of our employees need to start doing something or stop doing something to meet your standards of performance. It may be an action or an attitude, but they need to hear from you that it is this behavior or lack thereof that is keeping them from advancing or possibly may place their job in jeopardy.
Too often timid managers sheepishly ask employees to address a performance issue. This is unacceptable! A weak coach may say, “Hey, do you mind if I ask you a favor? It would mean a lot to me if you could get to work on time. Would you do that for me please?” It is your responsibility as the coach to make sure your players know you are strong enough to state performance expectations clearly. Further, they need to understand that your expectations are not suggestions! You must prove you are willing and able to enforce a previously stated clear consequence. There is a huge difference between an expectation and a suggestion! Missing a clearly stated expectations has consequences. And consequences must be delivered by you that are fair, consistent and appropriate.
A violation of a core value clearly stated in the employee handbook may require immediate dismissal. Other missteps may require sever consequences but not dismissal. One of my clients struggled with a high performing plant manager that had anger issues. Upon the third coaching conversation regarding his temper he was sent home for one week without pay. The plant manager was asked to reflect on his behavior and come back after the week with a plan to address his anger problem. The manager returned humbled and committed to anger management. Often coaching conversations are simply quick reviews of what worked well and what an employee can improve. Other times a coach may seize the opportunity to coach an employee purely to praise him or her for a job done well! When the employee performs in such a way that it becomes clear that his or her values are tightly aligned with the managers and the company’s values a well-deserved praise is in order!
Step 6 must come on the heels of step 5. Step 5 is where the coach states clearly the consequences of the behavior being discussed. A coach may say, “You have expressed a desire to be considered for a management position. Until you can be consistently on time and be an example to your fellow employees you will not be under consideration”. Or a coach may say “your sales numbers are 15% below your forecast. In order to enjoy any job security you must be no more than 10% below forecast. Do you understand that?” After you get their response you then ask, “Are you willing to address these performance matters?” The employee needs to know what they have to do differently in order to meet expectations and once the consequences are stated clearly be asked again if they are willing to commit to the new clarified goal. Usually you get a predictable response like “Yes! Absolutely! You have my 100% commitment!” But every now and then an employee may say something like “I have really been trying and I am not sure this job is for me”. Maybe they are mistaken and need to be coached up. Perhaps they are right in their self-assessment and you can now assist them in a smooth transition out of their job into something that may be a better fit. That job may be inside or outside the company.
Coaching conversations are powerful because they present these opportunities that are real and meaningful to both the employee and the company to engage on meaningful performance and personal matters. Stop avoiding them! Engage with your employees! They will become a better employee and you will become a better boss!