I was reflecting today on some of the tougher coaching assignments that I’ve done and have found that the hardest ones are invariably remedial in nature – i.e. the person’s manager is sending the employee for coaching to get better at something, as an alternative to eventual termination.

I have to admit that I have not been successful at coaching in all of these situations, however the so-called “school of hard knocks” has taught me quite a few lessons that have helped to gradually improve my score. I would like to share these with you, with a view to helping ensure a return on any investment that you may make in this area:

1. The leverage is actually with the boss

In the vast majority of cases where employee performance is suffering to the point of the person needing to be terminated, I find that the manager-employee relationship has either broken down or otherwise has very low levels of expectation setting, recognition and corrective feedback. In many cases I find that the manager is actually contributing to the negative situation, but may not be aware of it.

Implication: First prize is to coach the manager on how to deal with the employee him/herself. Second prize is to coach the employee while involving the manager in a way that kick-starts constructive conversations between the two.

If the manager would prefer to abdicate and does not want to be involved, I would suggest that an investment in coaching would not be worthwhile. I certainly would not accept the assignment if this were the case…

2. Behaviour change requires self-motivation

Employees who have no desire to change their behaviour will generally not respond to coaching. A coach can help with problem solving and action steps, but motivation needs to come from the employee.

Implication: Before involving a coach, ensure that the employee understands how they are doing, what the implications of not making behavioural change are, and that they are completely committed to improvement.

3. Behaviour change requires self-awareness on the specifics

In remedial situations, it is not uncommon for the employee to point to external factors or a single other person as the root cause for a bad situation.

Implication: Begin any remedial coaching arrangement with 360 feedback, where both the employee and manager are involved in selecting reviewers.

4. Create accountability through measurement

“What gets measured gets done” they say. We use an innovative technique called a mini-survey, whereby the employee develops a custom survey to poll a range of reviewers of their choosing on how they have progressed over the duration of the coaching assignment.

The chance that the employee will show significant improvement with coaching is greatly enhanced if these four elements are embraced.

Russ Horowitz, Principal