business_coachingOne of your roles as a leader is to develop your employees. This includes giving regular feedback, providing opportunities that help them stretch and grow, and allowing them to learn from their mistakes.  It’s called coaching. And putting yourself in the role of coach (positive) instead of boss (often negative) will go a long way to improving employee engagement and, by extension, improving company performance.

A survey by Corporate Executive Board found that firms whose culture encourages open communication outperform peers by more than 270% in terms of 10-year total shareholder return.  Good coaching and an open, honest communication environment go hand in hand.

Key to an effective coaching process is the coaching conversation. This is where the leader (coach) does more asking than telling, and where the coach and coachee (employee) co-create a solution and next steps.  This model works for both performance coaching and career development. Although the content will be different, the basic structure is the same – two-way, honest communication resulting in clarity and specific next steps.

Performance conversations should happen as close to when the performance issue is observed as possible. Unlike wine, poor performance does not improve with age. And unless the employee is made aware of the issue, he/she may assume everything is OK. Give employees the opportunity to learn from mistakes and to improve. Career development conversations should be held on a regular basis.

Here’s how a performance coaching conversation might look:

  1. Set the stage. Explain that the goal of the conversation is to provide feedback to help them improve.
  2. Describe the issue. Be sure that the issue is something you have personally observed, not something you were told by others. “I’ve observed that you came in late three times this week.”
  3. Get them thinking. Ask, “What do you think the impact of your being late is?” “How could this have been avoided?”
  4. Confirm expectations. “When do we need to be in the office and available for customer calls?”
  5. Gain commitment. “What are the new behaviors you will practice?” “What are the benefits of those new behaviors?”
  6. Follow up. If the behavior changes as promised, be sure to have another conversation where you give them positive feedback, including the positive impact of their actions. “I’ve noticed that you’ve been on time or even early for the past two weeks. We have consistently gotten orders out on time as a result. Thank you!”

Remember that, as a coach, you need to be providing regular feedback for both performance and career development. Catch your employees being good, and let them know how much you appreciate them. Praise them when they turn around a performance issue. When they come to you with a work issue, avoid the temptation to tell them how to solve it. Ask good questions to help them come up with a solution. “What have you tried so far?” “What’s another approach that might work that you haven’t tried yet?” “How have you handled something like this in the past?” “What was the outcome?”

If you’d like to learn more about giving effective feedback, please contact me about my one-hour performance feedback training.