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How to Coach an Employee

How to Coach an Employee

There is a growing trend for companies to use internal coaches vs. engaging with third party external coaches.  Anyone at the executive level who has the right experience and attitude could be called upon (or volunteer) to become a coach.  To be a good coach, you need to embody these traits:

  • Be a good empathetic listener
  • Focus on your coachee’s specific needs (not your preset agenda)
  • Work within professional boundaries
  • Be able to influence real change by the coachee

Coaches are called upon to help in a variety of situations ranging from executive underperformance to faster-than-expected promotions.  Someone who feels bored or neglected at work can benefit from coaching.  But whether the original impetus for coaching is corrective action or acceleration of good performance, the process for good coaching is similar:

Assessment: What produced the need for coaching? What is working, not working? Define the key areas needing change as specifically as possible, using affirmative language:  “Coachee wants to be doing X by [date]”, NOT negative language: “Coachee needs to stop doing Y..”  Many coaches call this identifying the opportunity.

Outcomes: What is the desired end state? “The coachee will be a more capable manager of people as evidenced by improved metrics for productivity and employee relations.”  Sometimes coaches must ‘lead the witness’ and suggest possible outcomes.  Question your way to the outcome gently:  “Do you think it would be beneficial to [insert a possible desired outcome]?”  People like to feel that they have made a choice – that the goal they are aiming for is one they chose.   Giving the coachee choice creates a better chance the coaching will work.

Obstacles: What gets in the way of achieving the desired results? Challenge a questionable obstacle to ensure the obstacle is real, supported by available evidence and not just an excuse.

Resources: The required resources must be made available.  This could include the commitment by the coachee, time, possibly a company financial investment in training, equipment, etc. It is also important for executives above the coachee to buy-in, and become additional personal resources.

Empowerment: Help the coachee to feel that they are the prime force behind the change.  Don’t tell the person what to do; ask them what they think they should do.  Help them discover the path and the actions required through questions, rather than just providing answers.

Actions: What steps specifically does the coachee need to take?  Weekly action plans should be established, with accountability by e-mail or in the next phone call with the coach.  Encouragement is a must here, for the coachee to feel motivated.

Calibration: The coach must keenly observe the actions, and provide meaningful feedback.  The coachee may need to be pushed, persuaded, encouraged, or confronted when something needs to be changed.  Don’t let an action continue if it isn’t working.

Reward: Some coachees see the outcome as an end in itself, and are happy to work toward that reward.  Resistant coachees may need interim rewards for just completing steps in an action plan.  Even simple things can work, like taking a walk in the afternoon sun, or enjoying a pizza after work.

You might be thinking that coaching sounds like a lot of work. It is. But it can also be time managed into a compressed coaching “session” every week or two, with perhaps intermittent e-mails in between formal sessions.  Good coaching leaves most of the work in the hands of the coachee. The payoff is solid – good coaching usually does produce meaningful change and positive results.