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Coaching steps part 1

Simple stepwise approach

A coach is someone who can provide experienced guidance, knowledge and understanding to improve the level of performance and help in the motivation of an individual.

If you approach performance management in a logical stepwise procedure you should be able to improve problem behaviour with the minimum of effort.

Step1 – neutral feedback

Use neutral feedback to raise the issue with the individual and ask them to conform with their behaviour.
At this stage you are using a polite approach to make it known that the problem behaviour exists.
After this improvements should be visible.
Make sure that you positively reinforce any improvements and review the situation at a later date to see if behaviour improvements have been maintained.

If necessary, ask the individual to modify his or her behaviour in a specific way, reinforce and review again.

Step 2 – analysis checklist

You now need to delve a little deeper into why the adverse behaviour is being maintained.
This can be easily achieved using a simple checklist of ‘yes’ and ‘no’ answers together with appropriate actions.
This is the same as a simple flow chart.

Step 3 – face to face talk

If all of the above fails and it would appear the person just doesn’t want to carry out the correct behaviour you will have to resort to additional discussion.

The simple check list given below is designed to stop you making incorrect assumptions on the factors that may be influencing poor performance and motivation.

Get the information by direct observation, by talking to the individual by speaking to people that know him or her well.
Always try to base the information on measurable facts and not hearsay.

It may be a useful idea to formalise these methods of coaching by putting the key points into a flow sheet.
The flow sheet could identify a list of behavioural issues with your possible solutions.
Going down them one at a time will stop you from missing any points.

It is necessary to accurately identify the incorrect behaviour that is causing the failure in results.
This may require considerable discussion or even direct observation during the work.

It may be that an overall problem of poor performance is in fact a combination of several behaviours.
For example, a manager might be accused of being too aggressive.
The underlying behaviours that cause this drop in performance may be:

  • He or she shoves documents at people instead of calmly handing them over
  • The manager continually interrupts people with negative comments
  • Bashes the table to emphasise a point etc.

You must restrict yourself to what is measurable or observable and disregard comments that are akin to mind reading.
For example, saying, “That person’s mind is never on the job” or “He or she thinks she’s always right” have no basis in fact.

Try not to restrict yourself to behaviours that someone is doing wrong consider also what they may not be doing right.
For example, it may be necessary to collate data to support an argument. This may be the correct behaviour but if it is carried out in a shallow manner there may not be enough information to support the argument.

If in doubt about the exact behaviour keep asking “Why?” until you have something that is not hearsay and can be measured.

“He can’t ever get reports in on time!”
“They’re never finished on time.”
“He seems to be slow.”
“There have been issues with his computer”
“Apparently his software is not up to date”
“The IT department haven’t got round to it yet”

“Then let’s make sure all systems are up to date and make it a priority”

It could be that pressures of work and a lack of suitable authority have let the problem drag on.

‘A lot’ and ‘so much’

When we raise a behavioural issue with an individual using neutral feedback it is very important not to be vague.
We will often state a level of performance that is expressed in terms that mean little in practice.

For example, if we say:

  • “You quite often appear too late with your reports”
  • “Did you now that you are often late? ” or more aggressively
  • “Why do you lose your temper so much”

These phrases can cause problems as they do not refer to any expectation of standards.
What if everyone was performing poorly at the same level. Why pick on one individual?

You must be aware of the standards you expect and what limits you believe are acceptable.
Few managers would expect 100% adherence to regulations (safety rules excepted) as people will have good reasons or forget etc. So, you must set criteria that trigger a review of the performance.

For example, 1 day every 3 months for absence, 5% of reports late, 3% of production errors.
Get the facts before providing feedback designed to correct poor behaviour.

It is extremely easy to generate a simple table to ‘tick off’ incidence of poor performance allowing you to get the necessary data.
Make sure that you collect this over a reasonable period of time.
It might also be a good idea to consider obtaining a base line of behaviour by measuring a range of workers to see what the ‘norm’ is.

Top priority

During a normal work period there may be many behaviour anomalies.
You must judge what is truly important and what isn’t.
If you judge that the adverse behaviour is low priority then don’t waste time by pursuing it.

One pitfall here is that some managers have a fear that any adverse behaviour will spread like a disease.
In this frame of mind the manager may feel the need to ‘clamp down’ on problem areas before they get out of control.
It’s just a case of realising that there is only so much time (see The Complete Time Management package) in a day and it is best used on the most important issues.

A large bone of contention is dress code.
Most companies have rules in this area. It is really a case of how strictly they are enforced.
Is it cosmetic (a tie or no tie), a health and safety issues (wearing of head ware in food manufacturing areas) or business related (setting a professional example). It will be up to the manager to judge the severity of minor infringements in these areas.

Minor peculiarities in personal behaviour may just be irritations to you and few others.
Don’t get carried away with ‘the letter of the law’ think of the impact of the adverse behaviour.

Remember, there is no reason why you shouldn’t use any of these techniques merely to review current behaviours with a view to looking for potential improvements in performance and motivation.