How to Engage Employees in Coaching Conversations

by Teala Wilson | Posted | Performance Management

How to Engage Employees in Coaching Conversations

This is the second post in a three-part series exploring performance management best practices through the eyes of HR, managers and employees. Make sure to read our first post about making ongoing performance management a reality.

Whether you’ve ever played organized sports or not, you know the value of good coaching.

What’s at the heart of a successful team? Sure, there’s talent, skill and commitment but there’s one other core element that is fundamental to a team’s success – the coach.

There might not be a champion ring, prized trophy or gold medal to show for it, but coaching employees at work can drive winning results of its own.

In fact, according to Bersin by Deloitte organizations with excellent cultural support for coaching had a 75 percent higher rating for talent management results than those with no or weak support for coaching. Furthermore, they had 13 percent stronger business results and 39 percent stronger employee results.

What can you do as a manager to help your employees be the best they can be? Here are five tips that can help.

Tip #1 – Schedule regular 1:1 meetings

Strong working relationships between you and your employees are crucial to organizational performance and results. To keep the lines of communication open, schedule one-on-one meetings weekly or biweekly with your employees to:

  • ask questions
  • clarify expectations
  • share progress
  • give feedback on their performance
  • get feedback on how you’re doing as a manager, and
  • discuss anything else your employees need to support their work and development.

Set up an agenda to cover off items such as great news for the week, update on goals and important tasks for the week ahead.

Tip #2 – Ensure coaching is ongoing

If other work-related activities are distracting you from giving regular performance feedback, set up task reminders that it’s time to touch base with your employees.

You can also keep a journal where you make notes on successes, incidents and challenges as they happen. Use these notes to guide coaching conversations during 1:1 meetings, and later to help with writing performance appraisals.

Tip #3 – Avoid the sandwich approach

Some believe that it’s easier for employees to digest negative feedback if it’s sandwiched between two pieces of good feedback. But the truth is that the sandwich approach doesn’t work. It can also negatively impact your relationship with you direct reports.

For example, performance improvement feedback that is followed by more positive feedback distorts the importance of the feedback about areas to improve, which can be confusing to employees.

You also run the risk of employees forgetting what you said about their positive performance, and then the meeting is counterproductive.

Bottom line? It’s best to avoid this approach ‒ it could leave a bad taste in your employee’s mouth.  

Tip #4 – Ask for feedback… on you!

If you want to build strong relationships with your employees, accept that feedback should be a two-way street. Ask your employees how you can better support them. Some questions might include:

  • What should I keep doing?
  • What should I stop doing?
  • What should I start doing?

Actively listen to what they have to say (you might learn something revealing). Once you’ve heard what they have to say, act on it where appropriate.

Tip #5 – Follow these simple rules for coaching conversations

When sharing your observations about performance with employees, ensure you are:

Specific ‒ Clearly tell the employee what they are doing well, and why you value the behavior (impact on team, organization, customer, etc.) or what they need to change/improve and why (impact on team, organization, customer, etc.). Include a specific example of when the behavior in question was demonstrated (no generalizations).

Honest ‒ Don't beat around the bush, especially with corrective feedback. And don't exaggerate. Tell the employee as honestly and accurately as you can what they're doing well, and where they can improve.

Timely ‒ For greatest impact, give feedback soon after the behavior is exhibited. The only exception to this is when emotions are running high and need to be allowed time to settle in order to facilitate communication.

Helpful ‒ Your goal is to help the employee improve their performance. Explain why a desired behavior is important, and when needed, provide suggestions for how to behave differently next time, as well as support for learning and development.

Consistent ‒ Employees should get some form of feedback every week. Be generous with your praise and recognition of desired behaviors; it will encourage more. Be consistent and persistent with your observations about poor performance; it takes time to learn new, more effective ways of working.

Managers play an important role in inspiring high performance

While you might not be a coach for a professional sports team or individual athlete, you do have an important role to play in motivating, inspiring and helping your team be the best it can be.

So make sure you keep coaching and two-way communication ongoing – it’ll pay off in winning results for your employees and your organization. 

Read part 1 of this three-part series – Tips for HR: Making Ongoing Performance Management a Reality

Employee Feedback and Coaching Templates

Use this template to give truly helpful, effective feedback


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Employee Feedback and Coaching Templates

Use this template to give truly helpful, effective feedback


Download Now


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