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Tip #2: Properly document coaching ses-

sions. Include only conduct that is observable, measurable, and tangible. Document the “who, what, where, and when” details. And don’t use the word “attitude!” What in the world is a “bad attitude?” Instead, describe the tangible outcome: the behavior that you actually see, hear, or measure. Don’t get hung up on the type of form to use; if it’s properly worded, it can be equally effective if you use a memo format or a common “warning” form. Also, remem- ber, the employee’s signature only verifies that he or she received the document—it does not and will not bring about a change in performance or a commit- ment to improve. You should always gain agreement and get a commitment BEFORE the employee signs. An employee who disagrees with the coaching notice or who refuses to sign it is not an employee who agrees or commits to changes. (Note: Monthly service clients can use our firm for assistance drafting documentation!)

Tip #3: Utilize an effective performance ap- praisal program. An effective performance appraisal program includes position-specific performance review forms administered by managers who are willing and able to confront performance realistically. Review forms should state only the facts and should not sugar coat problems, use discriminatory language, promise pro- motions, or guarantee increases.

Tip #4: Ensure consistency in your coach-

ing. Watch out for favoritism. When managers allow bad behavior by one employee (perhaps because he or she is the star sales person), credibility is lost and morale is affected.

When All Else Fails With all this talk about coaching, gaining agreements, and getting commitments—don’t misunderstand. You should never hang on to a poor performer who cannot or will not improve. In fact, the number one problem with terminations is—you guessed it—they don’t happen often enough. Leaders who avoid conflict because they feel sorry

for poor performers, hate confrontations or have overstepped the boundaries of a work relationship will ultimately suffer a loss of credibility. Why? Because the good performers are watching and when they see the leader FAIL to take action, they lose faith and trust in the leader’s ability to solve problems. HOW DO

ATTITUDES CHANGE? THERE ARE ONLY WAYS: Deep psychotherapy A religious conversion A lobotomy

Point: Live with who the person is and change what the person does through proper coaching.

Leaders who find themselves in this position

have, what we call, “misdirected compassion.” They fail to miss the point that they cannot always provide what a person needs to grow. Plus, people who aren’t performing well know it. The longer they are allowed to under-perform, the worse they feel about themselves. Misdirected compassion can do more harm than good. So, sometimes the best choice is the tough one—to let the employee go. If you coach and document effectively and you give an employee the opportunity to improve, if the employee chooses not to change, it’s time to part ways. There=s no reason to hang on to (or transfer) a problem. Remember . . . it’s not “employment for life,” it’s “employment at will.” You don’t adopt employees, you hire them. At the end of the day, the number one responsibil-

ity of any leader is to develop people . . . and this, of course, begins with attracting talent. Once you have talent lined up at the door, you can hire smart and coach employees who are willing and able to grow with your organization. Easier said than done . . .


Jean Seawright is NPMA’s HR Consultant. She is president of Seawright & Associates, an HR manage- ment consulting firm located in Winter Park, Florida. Since 1987, she has provided human resource man- agement and compliance advice to employers across the country. She can be contacted at 407-645-2433 or


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