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truly want to develop the employee, the goal is NOT to alienate or demotivate the employee. Rather, the goal of any coaching session is to solve the problem AND maintain the relationship. Always keep this in mind.

Strategy #2: Before coaching the employ- ee, frame the situation using the willing and able matrix. Ask yourself, “Is the employee willing but UNABLE?” If so, this is really a training issue (that is, YOUR problem, vs. the employee’s). If, on the other hand, the employee is UNWILLING but able, you should coach the employee. Of course, if the employee is UNWILLING and UNABLE, he or she should be UN-EMPLOYED in my book. The ultimate goal is for all of your employees to be both WILLING and ABLE.

Strategy #3: Consider the personality of the person you’re coaching and prepare your discussion accordingly. Personality can impact behavior. Resolving performance problems starts with understanding the employee who has the problem. This doesn’t mean you need to be a degreed

psychologist; but, if you can begin to learn and understand some fundamental personality traits of the people you manage, you’ll be in a better position to meet them where they’re at in their understanding and enhance their learning and development. Why? Because in some cases, performance prob-

lems stem from a misfit between the person and the position—a square peg in a round hole. When peo- ple feel the need to act unnaturally, they experience stress, which lowers productivity and, in turn, leads to job dissatisfaction and performance problems. You don’t need to know a lot about people’s

weaknesses; but, you do need to know about their strengths. Building on strengths is more productive than trying to correct weaknesses. (Hint: You can and should obtain this type of information during the interview process by in-depth questioning or personal- ity profiling. This way, you reduce the risk of a mishire and performance problems down the road.) Strategy #4: Coach vs. Punish. Over the years

I’ve watched traditional forms of punishment (pro- gressive discipline) in the workplace fail. The reason for this is that managers have not yet learned how to effectively coach employees. Managers must learn how to turn the disciplinary process into a behavior-


changing event. What’s needed is positive coaching— a two-way conversation that is mutual and that communicates respect—one that is problem-focused, change-oriented, and disciplined. Remember, you don’t have to make a person feel

bad in order to get him or her to act good. It doesn’t work with the younger generation. Today, if the boss is viewed as a jerk, employees simply walk. Punitive punishment is no longer an effective strategy for disciplining employees.

Strategy #5: Obtain agreement and a commitment to change. This is perhaps the most overlooked, yet critical ingredient in devel- oping performance. When a manager confronts an employee about a problem, it’s imperative that the employee actually agrees to solve the problem and takes responsibility for it. This can only occur when the manager is prepared to provide detailed examples of the problem and the tangible outcomes of the behavior. A “broad brush” approach will not lead to an agreement and commitment. Before you can gain agreement and get a commitment to improve, the employee must believe and accept that there is a problem to correct. What’s also good about the commitment piece is,

if the problem persists, the next time you can focus on the employee’s failure to live up to the agreement; that is, their ownership of the problem and their personal choice not to improve.

The Science Now for the “science” . . . In the world of govern- ment regulations, the burden of proof rests with the employer. Think of it as being “guilty until proven innocent.” Because government agencies operate un- der this principle, employers must take very definite measures to ensure their policies, procedures and work practices are consistent and compliant. Here are a few tips to manage this important aspect of coaching . . .

Tip #1: Define Expectations. When you

define the specific expectations, you eliminate the opportunity for employees to make excuses for their performance problems—that blame-game thing. You can define expectations by means of a properly written and compliant hand-book, comprehensive training programs, and job descriptions that specify the accountabilities.

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