Coaching enhances employees’ performance Featured

8:52am EDT March 28, 2006
Finding and cultivating talented employees will separate the organizations that thrive from those that will not. If executives create a culture where employees truly are an organization’s most important assets, the employees will provide lasting value for the company. And managers who develop the employees’ skills and performance through career coaching are the key to this culture’s success.

However, many organizations fail to realize their long-term success depends on the ability of managers to get the best performance from every employee — not just the “stars.” Individuals at every level need, and deserve, effective coaches.

These coaches help employees set and meet performance goals, augmenting the organization’s strategic plan through both formal and informal interactions. Formal coaching occurs when managers work with employees to set goals and have regularly scheduled, structured performance discussions and reviews. Informal coaching occurs day-to-day, when managers offer praise for a job well done or give suggestions for improvement.

Effective coaching benefits everyone — the employee, the manager, and the organization. Employees learn to enhance their performance, work with more commitment, and discover higher job satisfaction. Managers improve their communications and ability to motivate employees. Organizations benefit by having managers and employees who recognize how their contributions work toward accomplishing their missions and goals.

Wearing two hats
In the workplace, a coach has two jobs — performing specific tasks, such as sales, consulting or accounting, and developing people. Juggling the two can be a challenge, particularly in an organization that does not truly value the coaching role. Effective coaching takes time, and the more employees a manager has to coach, the more time it requires.

It is generally assumed that star performers make great coaches. But do the stellar employees have what it takes to develop people? Sometimes, they do, but often they need training about how to teach others what they have done for themselves instinctively.

Evaluating performances
While annual performance reviews are common, they are often not enough. Increasingly, organizations are using a performance management process as the framework for planning and ongoing assessment of employees’ performance. Its purpose is to align employees’ goals with those of their department and the entire organization.

For example, a company’s strategic objective is to increase its overall sales figures by 20 percent in the new fiscal year. Aligning with that objective, one department’s goal is to increase its market share in a region from 15 percent to 25 percent. To support that goal, an individual salesperson is charged with increasing sales to existing customers by 7 percent or more.

Within this environment, a coach’s role expands significantly. Throughout the year, the coach monitors progress toward the established goals. The coach celebrates successes and addresses problems as they arise. Midway through the year, the coach and employee hold a formal discussion about progress toward the employee’s performance plan.

Giving good advice
A manager provides coaching to allow employees’ potential to shine and focus on their capabilities, not on their shortcomings. The coach should assess an employee’s progress toward stated goals, recognize achievements, make adjustments as needed, and enhance overall performance.

Feedback is most meaningful when it is:

  • Specific about a situation, task, action, or result. People learn from concrete examples, not vague generalities.
  • Offered at an appropriate time. Almost any time is appropriate for applauding strengths. Feedback on correcting weaknesses, however, is best delivered when both coach and employee are calm rather than when emotions are running high.
  • Given with positive intent. While coaches can’t eliminate “negative” feedback, they need to accentuate the positive to get better results. When it comes to delivering tough messages, coaches can be direct without beating someone up.

Overall, keep in mind that how coaches deliver feedback is as important as what they say. When preparing to give an employee feedback — whether formal or informal — coaches need to ask how they would want to hear the same message from their managers.

JOHN WYSOCKI is senior manager at Crowe Chizek. Reach him at (630) 574-1040 or jwysocki@crowechizek.com.