A: Don’t save coaching for a special event.
Effective athletic coaches don’t save their counsel for the big game. In Major League Baseball advice and conversations begin before spring training and continue until lockers are cleaned out. Baseball players have the advantage of a slew of statistics to measure performance but it’s the daily observations and tweaking that produce ongoing results.
Managers see results when they translate this practice to the workplace but most don’t engage in frequent coaching conversations. A recently released global assessment by Gallup asked employees to rate 12 measurements of employee engagement. The bottom ranking went to, “In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.” Gallup sites a lack of processes to give input and missed opportunities, most likely based upon the assumption that people naturally know how well they are doing. It’s easier for a supervisor to operate under the principle that no news is good news.
Without feedback people don’t always assume they are doing well. They may believe no one cares or notices. Bump up the coaching and increase engagement and results.
Look for Opportunities
The best managers look for opportunities to coach staff members. It’s an everyday activity, just like the athletic coach. Reports, presentations and customer interactions all create situations that are perfect for discussion, recommendation and follow up. It can be working side by side, reporting back or providing examples of successful outcomes.
There’s a balance between micromanaging and coaching. The overbearing manager provides every little detail and constant oversight. The coach seeks suggestions, input and provides regular feedback without hovering. They know the best approach based upon the individual whether it is providing a hands-on demonstration or handing off a few bullet points.
Schedule the Time
Weekly one-on-one meetings are another forum for ongoing coaching. I was introduced to the concept while working for a new VP at a start up. It seemed time consuming but I quickly found that it was a great way to provide progress reports, discuss philosophy and review results. I adopted the format with my own team.
While weekly one-on-ones will work well with a handful of direct reports coaching can also be a group activity with a larger team. Daily pre-shift meetings can highlight results and expectations. One client actually calls them “the huddle.” While this is a great forum for information and praise, corrective coaching should be reserved for individual meetings.
It’s Not Always a Coaching Situation
As important as coaching is it does not apply to every situation. When an employee really screws up it may be time for more serious discipline, whether or not they have been coached about the infraction.
Last week a business owner told me they were concerned about terminating a manager who had been overheard, by three staff members, badmouthing the company to a customer. The manager had been counseled in the past about difficulty with internal relationships within the organization, they were often viewed as rude, brusque and unresponsive. He simply did not work well cross functionally. I assured the company president that a track record of documentation about difficulty with work relationships and new behavior that risked client trust certainly created a reason for termination. Responding with coaching would be more likely to damage credibility within the organization.
The next time you observe an athletic coach whether it is in the big leagues or little league, watch the way the good ones give ongoing feedback. Take some cues and look for ways to improve the game at your workplace every day.
Rebecca Mazin is the owner of Recruit Right in Larchmont, N.Y. She does consulting, management training, and writing to create solutions for human resources issues. Co-author of The HR Answer Book: An Indispensable Guide for Managers and Human Resources Professionals, Mazin is also the author of The HR Answer Blog on AllBusiness.com and The Employee Benefits Answer Book (Pfeiffer).