Effective Coaching is Spontaneous, Quick and Frequent

“Does your manager ever visit your workstation?” I asked a group of employees.

“Oh, yes,” was the reply.  “If we make a mistake, no matter how minor, he appears out of thin air.”

“And when work is flowing smoothly . . .?” I added.

“We rarely see his face!” several responded in unison.

Employees, like most of us, do not like to be ignored.  While addressing weaknesses is better than no attention, recognizing successes is far better.

According to the Gallup organization only one in four employees say they receive helpful feedback from their leaders.

If you have every participated in a sporting, musical or theatrical practice session under the watchful eye of a coach, you understand the meaning of instant feedback.

Coaches spontaneously approval successes via hand claps, high-fives, and verbal expressions.  Likewise, coaches clearly communicate disapproval with excitable language, often accompanied by unmistakable facial expressions.

In the workplace, effective managers follow a similar model.  That is, they quickly acknowledge even the slightest of successes while, at the same time, intervene to correct problems.

Coaching occurs several times a day, in one- to two-minute spurts.  When done properly, employees view their managers as available and helpful without being intrusive.



Don’t Make Your Job Hard

Part 3 of 3

Willard, an admitted perfectionist, overlooked tasks that were well-done and focused on fixing everything that did not meet his standards—even things that had little impact.  One employee said, “Willard can walk into a room, spot a pencil laying in a corner and commence a ten-minute lecture on the value of an orderly workspace.”

Willard expressed his philosophy as, “I don’t want them to think that I’m ever pleased with their performance.”

Willard approached his weekly meetings like a hand grenade with the pin pulled.  Staff expected to be chewed out for something that Willard perceived to be amiss or less than perfect.  Employees began building elaborate defenses for their actions.  And worse, a few members began hiding information and even falsifying data in attempts to avoid Willard’s wrath.

As pressure increased, performance dipped.  Some good employees left. No one took initiative to solve problems and opportunities were ignored.  Willard’s stress level increased and he had trouble sleeping, He feared that he was failing and began flailing even more.

Willard made his job hard by focusing on failures.  Of course, effective leaders seek improvements and they correct mistakes quickly, but their major attention focuses on glorifying improvements and celebrating successes.

Coaching Tone May Make A Difference

Elsie admitted that she had a tendency to procrastinate and get distracted. Her manager said, “Elsie, I expect you to verify all invoices, complete payments on time and enter data into the computer accurately.  Otherwise, there could be consequences.”

Elsie improved for about four weeks, then she drifted into carelessness—making mistakes and missing deadlines.

The manager said, “I like Elise but I get frustrated because I have to spend too much time micromanaging her.”

Eventually, Elise’s manager was transferred. Her new manager commented, “After observing Elsie’s performance for a couple of weeks, I sat down with her and in a friendly way worked out checklists and deadlines for completing her tasks.  At least weekly, I reviewed with Elsie her work.

The manager “thanked” Elsie for even her slightest improvements and patiently noted mistakes.  Elsie quickly apologized and immediately corrected the errors.

After about four months, Elsie’s performance, while not perfect, became much more reliable.  “Eventually,” her manager said, “I got acceptable performance from Elsie by asking her to give me weekly updates on her metrics.”

Elsie said, “My first manager made me very nervous.  I knew he didn’t like me, but I really like my current manager.  I don’t want to disappoint her.”