Coaching for Performance: ‘Must Haves’ for Every Supervisor

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Coaching employees using proven techniques can help workers improve their performance and productivity. Using established techniques helps workers feel supported and encouraged, which in turn increases staff morale and engagement. As a business owner, you should use coaching techniques yourselves and teach them to managers to incorporate into their own workplace practices.


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A process for coaching employees for performance

Coaching employees using a clear process helps them understand what they can improve and how to refine their work habits to perform better. This approach can be used for employees with performance issues and good employees who could become even better workers. The process is constructive to ensure workers feel supported. Managers should take the following steps to effectively coach their employees.


  1. Define the performance issue 
  2. Encourage a two-way dialogue 
  3. Collaborate on a plan for improvement 
  4. Implement the plan 
  5. Meet to discuss employee’s progress

The manager and employee will have as many progress meetings as needed until the employee achieves the goal established in their initial discussion. Managers should be patient during this process and encourage all employee progress.


Read more: How to Conduct an Employee Evaluation 


1. Define the performance issue

A manager should clearly state what their employee is doing that needs improvement or could be refined. This definition should be strictly factual, based on observations made rather than any assumptions. For example, a manager may observe their employee consistently arrives late to work, without guessing the reasons why.


2. Encourage a two-way dialogue

The manager should encourage their employee to share their own opinions on the performance issue and why they think it may be occurring. They should then listen patiently to the employee’s viewpoint. This approach helps the employee feel valued and understood. Determining the cause of a performance issue can often lead to a solution for improvement. For example, the employee who is often late may admit they often get stuck in traffic on their way to work. Knowing this may help the manager suggest several solutions.


3. Collaborate on a plan for improvement

With a two-way dialogue established, the manager and employee can work together on a plan for improvement. This plan should have a clear goal and an action plan for how to achieve it. For example, the manager and tardy employee may discuss the employee leaving home earlier or taking the train rather than driving. Identify whether there are any barriers to executing the plan and if so, discuss how these barriers may be removed.

The manager and employee should also agree on how progress will be measured and when they will meet to discuss progress. Managers should plan to have at least three progress meetings with their employees to determine whether sustained improvements have been made.


Read more: How to Grow Your Business 


4. Implement the plan

Once a plan is in place, the manager and employee should both take the action agreed on in their meeting. The employee will typically work independently on achieving their goal, but they may also require help from their manager. The manager should pay attention to their employee’s progress so they can discuss their observations later.


5. Meet to discuss employee’s progress

The manager and employee should also meet for progress reports as discussed in their initial coaching meeting. During these meetings, they will discuss the relevant changes they have both observed since their last progress report. They will then decide when they should meet again. Progress meetings are usually frequent at first, with no around two to four weeks between discussions. As progress is made, progress meetings are usually less frequent.


Best practices for managers

Managers should incorporate best practices into their coaching techniques to improve employee morale and performance. Managers should adopt the following best practices when coaching employees.


  • Provide positive feedback. Managers should praise employees for good work. This practice boosts employee confidence and reinforces positive workplace contributions. This encourages employees to continue striving for excellence.
  • Chat informally about workplace issues. Coaching employees through informal conversations helps them feel relaxed and more receptive to the information they are receiving. 
  • Focus on the problem or performance issue. This approach ensures the employee does not take the coaching personally or feel judged.
  • Tailor coaching to experience level. New employees require more intensive coaching than more experienced workers. Tailoring your approach ensures employees get the help they need without feeling micro-managed.


Tips about coaching for performance

Most employees respond well to coaching and improve their performance to become productive and valued team members. This technique can eradicate certain challenges in the workplace and help struggling workers adopt better habits. It can also help good employees learn more skills and improve their output to advance in their careers. As a collaborative process, coaching is a good way to improve relationships between supervisors and employees and encourage teamwork.


Coaching for performance FAQs

Read through the following FAQs for answers to common questions about coaching for performance.


How does coaching improve performance? 

Coaching improves performance in several ways. Coaching using the process discussed above empowers employees, making them part of the solution to workplace issues. Regular progress reports and monitoring ensure sustained change is achieved. As coaching is a positive process that focuses on constructive advice and praise, it also motivates employees to strive for improvement. 


When should coaching occur?

Coaching should occur when performance issues are first detected. This early intervention ensures minor problems do not become larger concerns that detract from the overall performance. It is also easier to retrain employees to perform better before concerning behavior becomes habitual.


Does coaching for performance always work?

Coaching for performance is usually very successful. However, some employees may need more formal performance management through a performance improvement plan. Every employee is different, but all workers should have the opportunity to improve through coaching. If performance does not improve, disciplinary action or termination may be required.


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