Problem Solving

Coaching Employees to Higher Performance

Jack Pyle asked:

It really pains me when leaders talk about employees who don’t perform to minimum standards. It seems that rather than take on the problem, leaders often find it easier not to confront the issue.

A big part of leading people is helping them understand when they are doing well and not doing so well. It is especially important to recognize someone at once when they are doing a good job. When they need to improve, your job is to coach them to better performance.

Some keys of coaching are:

Information: Know what is going on with your staff

Listen with empathy

Be aware of the work environment. This comes from talking to people

Instruct staff so they know exactly what is expected

Giving feedback

Good coaches are good role models. They demonstrate good work habits. They also get to know people well enough to be able to develop them appropriately.

Coaching is situational. You take different approaches depending on the employee and their overall competence and experience, as well as ability to do a specific task.

Look at the grid.

Grid I: Competent and task experienced

There is no problem with employees in this box. Little follow up is needed here because the employee is dependable and good at his/her job. Though little follow up is needed, it is always wise to show appreciation for these gems! A verbal “attaboy” or “attagirl” is good and a written memo is even more memorable.

Most people I question about receiving written letters or memos telling them they did a good job say they still have those notes years later. Remember that it only takes a few moments to put your appreciation in writing.

I. Competent Overall and Experienced at Task

No problem:

Keep in touch, but let employees do their job.

Little follow up

II. Competent Overall and Inexperienced at Task

To avoid problem:

Check up and coach by giving H.E.L.P.

Some follow up

III. Incompetent at Task and Experienced at Task

Fix problem:

Coach and D.E.A.L. with problem

Follow up often

IV. Incompetent at Task and Inexperienced at Task

Fix problem:

Train or retrain

Follow up often

Grid II: Competent, but task inexperienced

If the employee is having difficulties with the task after you’ve given instructions, you can avoid problems by coaching him/her with H.E.L.P.

H= Hear problem. Listen to your employee’s view about the task and state your own view.

E= Encourage by asking open questions to learn more. Get details about the situation causing the problem. Discuss the task until there is mutual understanding of problem.

L= Lead employee to come up with his/her own recommendations about what to do to solve the problem.

P= Praise employee for his/her problem solving ideas. Follow up occasionally to offer resources and additional help, if needed.

Grid III: Experienced, but incompetent

You need to fix this problem! The employee has been trained and retrained, yet still is performing below expectations. Before giving up on them, D.E.A.L. with the problem.

D= Describe the situation without getting personal or blaming. Be specific and objective about situation, not the person.

E= Express your feelings. “When this happens, I am concerned (or frustrated) because we are not meeting customer expectations (or wasting time and valuable resources.) Do not start sentences with “You always” or “You never.” The employee will become defensive and argue with you.

A= Ask for what you want employee to do. Be specific with deadlines and checkpoints.

L= Leave it on a positive note. Be encouraging and expect good results. Be motivating rather than demanding.

Follow up frequently. If employee still fails, it is time to stop coaching and start disciplining.

Grid IV: Inexperienced and task incompetent

Make this a training or retraining issue. Be specific about instructions and ask employee to repeat them to be sure he/she understands what is expected.

With these coaching ideas, your job as a leader will become easier.


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