Intelligent Coaching: Improving Performance

February 21st, 2013

A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment.
~ John Wooden

Intelligent coaches know to address performance issues through regular and thorough documentation and continuous communication. They don’t take a “wait and see” approach but know how to have conversations that transform.

Intelligent Coaches not only know when to take action, they know how.

They know how to correct performance in a way that motivates rather than builds resistance and resentment. So, what is an easy-to-follow five-step process for holding these transformational coaching conversations?

To back up a few steps, remember these conversations can be high in threat, and threat is the greatest enemy to innovation, communication, and building trust. Therefore, remember the following as you prepare for a coaching conversation:

  • choose a time that is beneficial to both you and your team member
  • pick a place that is completely distraction free
  • have an attitude that communicates “I am for you”
  • begin with an introduction that clearly states your goal is to find the best possible solution for everyone


Step One: The Current Reality

Be certain you have accurate documentation that is specific and objective, including dates, times, occurrences, reactions, impact, and so forth. Emphasize the current reality – not the reality you would like for things to be.

Reinforce your desire to find the best possible outcome for everyone.


Step Two: Input and Involvement

After the current reality is presented as objective facts, get the employee involved. Have them identify the consequences of the current reality and solutions they see moving forward. If necessary, leave the room and allow them time to write down consequences and possible solutions.

The job of the coach in this step is to listen attentively, keep an open mind, continue to minimize the threat of the conversation. The coach should not argue or shoot down ideas for solutions.

Oftentimes, the coach will learn ways to better support the employee and develop a perspective that will help him/her be a better leader.


Step Three: Expectations and Consequences

After the coach and team member have explored the reality and possible root causes and solutions, be sure to clearly communicate expectations moving forward and the exact consequences that will occur if that expectation is not met.

If necessary, have the team member paraphrase the expectations and the consequences associated with meeting and not meeting those expectations.


Step Four: Document

Document, document, document!!! These are the words I’ve frequently heard from human resource and legal professionals. Without documentation, a meeting never occurred.

The coach should definitely document the “go forward” plan and any other important details of the conversations, the expectations, and the consequences.

Encourage the team member to document additional facts if necessary. Remember the goal is to see everyone grow and succeed.


Step Five: Schedule Next Meeting

Perhaps even more than documentation is the all-too-frequently missed step of planning a follow-up meeting. Like documentation, if a follow-up is not scheduled, a meeting never occurred.

Oftentimes, coaches will schedule several follow up meetings to not only ensure the employee is following the plan but also to ensure the leader is providing appropriate support, training, or resources for the team member to be successful in improving performance.

These conversations are usually not a coach’s favorite task; however, for those coaches who know when and how to hold them, the results can positively impact team morale, leader influence, and employee performance and engagement.

The Brain-Based Bottom Line

Intelligent coaches know when and how to take action when performance is not meeting expectations. An easy-to-follow 5-step process for holding coaching conversations includes:

  • Step One: The Current Reality
  • Step Two: Input and Involvement
  • Step Three: Expectations and Consequences
  • Step Four: Document
  • Step Five: Schedule Next Meeting

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