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Lacey’s Leadership Coaching Tips — 3) Coaching for Success

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Once the leader and employee have established their own personal motivations for having the coaching sessions, they are ready to schedule sessions to accomplish their tasks.  Elements that are critical for a successful coaching approach are as follows:

1.  Establishing Goals: We have all learned that setting goals that are measurable, specific, attainable are critical to the goal setting process.  There are consultants who will argue that leaders don’t set high enough aspirations in the goal setting process.  We would argue that the goal setting process needs to not only be measurable but that the goals have stretch in them.

2.  Then it is critical to build two more elements in to the goal setting: be flexible in understanding the impact of factors outside the control of the employee in discussing the level of accomplishment and secondly, make sure to include goals for personal growth in the process.  Almost all employees want to grow in their job.  That should be at least as important as setting the corporate goals.
Providing Feedback: Almost all leaders complain that the review process is unnecessarily burdensome on their time.  Completing reviews for 5-10 direct reports monthly or quarterly takes them too long to write, too many hours in meetings and so on.  Our proposal is to turn that process its ear.  Effective coaching should follow the following clear parameters:

  • Frequency for planned sessions should not be less than monthly.
  • Employees set the agenda for the meeting and they complete their own assessment of what was accomplished, what areas fell short, what they tried to do to mitigate and think through ways the leader can help them.
  • The leader should use the time to ask questions almost all the time and avoid the temptation to save time by just giving the employee the answers to how to fix any problems they may have.
  • The employee should document all the outcomes of the meeting including any actions to be taken by themselves or the leader.
  • Each meeting should have the leader establish a clear intention in each type of feedback they give the employee.  On those rare occasions when you have to step the interaction up and actually give some stern messages to the employee it is critical that you understand clearly your motivation to do so.  All too often leaders use this time as an opportunity to vent their frustration or to exact blame or revenge on the employee.  This is a TRUST BUSTER!
  • The net of the above actions is that everyone only has to spend the time preparing documentation and follow up documentation for one session!

3.  Informal Feedback: While having monthly feedback/coaching sessions is going to make a major difference in your relationships with employees, their level of engagement and their accomplishment of goals, it is not enough. You probably wouldn’t believe how many leaders have made the comment: “you mean I should recognize performance every week?  I pay these people to do their jobs, isn’t that enough?” In our work we recommend that all leaders find opportunities to provide feedback to each of their direct reports every week.  To do this it must be:

  • Timely – catch them in the act and point out what they did right at the time it occurs.
  • Sincere – don’t make up some reason to compliment an employee for their contribution to the team.
  • Relevant – cite actual actions taken and how it benefited the team.  Being real about this is the key.

4.  Quarterly Checkpoints:  it is important that the process of goal setting doesn’t get bureaucratic and attempts to identify all the tasks to be done for 12 months out.  The most successful  processes accept that the next quarter can be laid out in detail and then you wait for time to pass prior to attempting to get  too much detail in the specifics of what needs to be done next quarter.  This is your opportunity to adjust goals, to understand the impact that external forces are having, changes in priorities internally or a lack of available support from other divisions or teams will have on our goals.

So, let’s go back to our original challenges from our HPCA process:

  1. Lack of performance reviews, process seems unbalanced in favor of the “boss”.  Solved?  Yes, if you follow the principles of effective coaching and have the regular meetings that are discussed in this article.
  2. Lack of recognition? Done.  Taking the time to point out contributions weekly sets a tone of being winners who appreciate each other.  You will be well rewarded in the changes in cooperation and willingness to dig in and give more of their effort.
  3. Lack of consultation on changes that affect my job?  Done.  In the coaching process you will spend considerable time discussing how we can do our work better, how we can change processes, how it will impact others and so on.  Now the employee will feel that their opinions count and that they are more than just an “asset” to be assigned tasks as though they were a piece of furniture.

Want to get the most out of employees?  How about starting with changes to your own mindset.  We wouldn’t treat our children, parents, friends  or spouses the way we do employees when we give them one-way ratings on their performance.  So why do we think it is acceptable at work?  Why are we puzzled when employees leave for a better opportunity or worse yet “quit and stay”?

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