As a manager, you’ll inevitably need to spend time actively coaching employees. Perhaps you have a hard-working employee who needs to build certain skills to be more effective on the job. Or maybe you’ve recently promoted a high performer, and you want to ensure that you’ve made the right decision by giving her an opportunity to build new skills. In situations like this, you may find that you’re able to be a very effective coach for your direct report. But in the 15 years I’ve spent on coaching and employee development initiatives, I’ve found that there are certain scenarios when it simply makes sense to call in a professional:
When you have a close personal relationship. If you’re willing to coach your employee, you no doubt respect his talents and strengths. You might also really just like this person, and genuinely want to help him succeed. Perhaps you even spend time with this person outside the office, know his family, and attend functions or events together. When you have such a close personal relationship, it can be difficult to address areas that need improvement. If you’re having trouble drawing the line between the personal relationship and the business relationship, it’s wise to invest in a professional coach.
When an employee laughs off your feedback. Every organization has that employee whom we’ll call “the mayor.” This person is popular, and has good relationships with co-workers, senior management, and clients alike. However, when it’s time to do his annual review and talk about performance issues; he tends to brush it off, and wants to talk about the Jets’ defensive line instead. While he may be your top sales guy, he’s recently rubbed one of your conservative clients the wrong way with his jokes, and you’ve decided that it would be wise to call in a coach.
To keep this type of employee focused, don’t meet in your office. Book a conference room instead, and be direct with your employee as soon as he walks in. Let him know that the firm values his contributions, but would like him to work on certain issues with a professional coach. Be sure to outline the consequences of not taking the coaching feedback seriously.
When an employee isn’t interested in being coached. There are times when an employee won’t agree with your assessment that she needs a coach. She might try to dismiss the suggestion, saying “It’s not a big deal,” or “I don’t need a coach, I can fix this myself.” As a manager, you need to spend more time understanding why this person is so resistant to coaching. Consider that many employees are concerned about how it looks to have a coach, and fear that others might see their skills as inferior, weak, or in need of improvement. It’s your job as the manager to ensure that you frame the coaching in a positive light. Tell the person that the company is making a serious investment in his or her professional development — and that’s a good thing.
One caveat. If an employee has a bad attitude about being coached, constantly pushes back on the coach, doesn’t follow the coach’s advice, or constantly disagrees with what’s expected of him or her, you may need to revisit whether or not this person is actually coachable. Your organization is making a financial investment in the coaching, and it should be reserved for employees who are willing and able to be coached, and who have a positive mindset about receiving feedback and changing behavior.
When an employee is a star, and needs high-level coaching. Most star employees will need coaching for a single, specific issue. Maybe your biggest producer on the team treats his colleagues with sharp elbows, and therefore needs to work on his self-awareness. In a case like this, you want to keep the employee engaged and encouraged, while pointing out that the firm values not just results, but results that are achieved in a professional manner. Once you’ve made the decision to hire a coach, understand that it’s still important to remain actively involved in the process, and to hold all parties accountable for the change. Whatever goal you’ve laid out for your employee — to increase revenue, to obtain new clients, to change bad behavior — should be specific and measurable. To make any professional coaching session successful, you as a manager need to be sure to:
- Pick a past situation or scenario and dissect it to determine what worked vs. what did not work. For example, you might want to review one of your recent client meetings and analyze the entire experience: What did the person do that helped to either obtain or lose new business?
- Determine what results you need to see from the coaching, and set a deadline in the near future for when you need to see them. Using the example above, you might set specific goals for the next client meeting.
- Ensure that the employee understands her “homework assignment” at the end of each coaching session. Using the same sales meeting example above, you might require that your employee learn how to bone up on client/industry knowledge before a client meeting. Make sure that she completes her homework assignment by demonstrating what she’s learned about a particular client, and how she’ll use that knowledge in the next sales meeting.
- Set regularly scheduled meetings to check in on progress.
Finally, consider that the day-to-day demands of being a manager and leader don’t always give you the time you need to coach your employees. Instead of putting necessary coaching off, consider partnering with a professional. Your employees’ continued development is too important to relegate to the back burner.
Source: Harvard Business Review