You don’t want to miss these seven steps to help improve your coaching and improve performance.
Google the word “coaching” and you’ll get back oodles of images and articles on three things: sports coaching, life coaching, and career coaching. Sure, coaching football has some useful metaphors applicable in business. We’ve all heard them. Thank you, Vince Lombardi. And life or career coaching is in serious demand these days courtesy of the “great recession.”
But I’m not talking about any of those types of coaching. I’m talking about the act of giving an employee constructive feedback in order to improve his or her job performance. Great leaders know how to get the best performance from their teams through effective coaching conversations. How do you have a coaching conversation? What does it sound like?
The following seven steps will guide you through the process.
#1 OBSERVE WITH PURPOSE: Coaching is most effective when you can observe the coachee in action. In some industries, observation can be conducted without the employee’s knowledge, especially in call center environments. In other cases, you’ll have to deliberately put yourself in a position to observe without disrupting the activity. For example, join your sales rep on a client visit or stand near your teller as he or she engages with customers. Know the behaviors, words, and key phrases that you are expecting to see or hear. You are looking for two things: what did they do well and what could they have done differently to get a better outcome.
#2 PREPARATION AND PERMISSION: Now you are prepared to have a coaching conversation. You want the coachee to feel open and ready to receive the feedback, so start the conversation like this, ”I’ve had a chance to observe you working with our customers for a little while and I have some feedback to share that may help you get even better. Are you interested?” You may be thinking that you’re the boss and that you don’t need to ask permission to give feedback. Trust me, it is better if you do. You want them “in the mood” and emotionally prepared to receive feedback. Your goal is not to be right; it’s to be heard.
#3 WHAT WENT WELL: Next, give them a chance to share what they think they did well. Some people struggle with this and may not be able to say anything positive. Some people think they can do no wrong. Forcing the coachee to talk about their own behavior is how coaching becomes a dialogue not a monologue. Then, it’s your turn to share the positive things you heard and saw. You might say, “Based on what I saw, I agree with your thoughts, plus I also noticed that you stayed quite calm and demonstrated patience throughout the conversation with the customer. Thank you for that.”
#4 WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER: Now it’s time to talk about what could have been better to produce a more successful “next time.” Again, ask them what they think first. If they know what they missed and can articulate it, kudos to them. You may proceed to step 5. However many times they don’t have a clue. It’s your job to guide them through a process of self-discovery by asking leading, open-ended questions. Think of how you can phrase your questions with embedded clues to lead them to the right conclusion. For example, you might say, “When the customer objected to your request for her email address, how could you have responded differently?” which helps take them back to a specific moment in the conversation. You’re looking for them to say, “Yeah, you’re right, I could have responded better. I should have said . . . .” It may take a couple, well-crafted questions to get them there, but by having the coachee figure it out themselves, they own it. It makes more sense to them because they discovered it.
#5 WHY DOES IT MATTER: Once the coachee knows what could have been done better, ask them the big question…why does it matter? You want them to articulate how the outcome could have been different. If you can help them see how making this change impacts them personally, then that’s even better. This step confirms that the coachee understands the importance of the change you are seeking and how it benefits him or her. It could sound something like, “So, tell me why saying it that way matters? What good things could have happened if you had done it like this?”
#6 PERFECT PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT: Giving your coachee a safe place to practice new skill cement the learning. Without this step, you are allowing them to practice and experiment directly on customers. Think about the worst customer service experiences you’ve had. Odds are the rep couldn’t remember the rules, fumbled through a prescribed script for the first time or was just plain unprepared to help you. I don’t believe they were never trained. I believe they never practiced. So, role-play the scenario right then and there so that the coachee finds their own words and doesn’t just politely nod in agreement at your suggestion.
#7 MUTUAL COMMITMENT: This final phase of the conversation is meant to get the employee to say out loud when they will apply the learning. In some cases, the answer is an obvious — immediately! That’s okay. As silly as it may sound, it’s a great way to confirm that they understand your expectations. However, the commitment goes both ways. The coach has an obligation to re-observe at the appropriate interval so that the coachee can be recognized for applying the feedback. After all, that which is recognized is repeated.
This article was originally published on LinkedIn.