Performance Management: The Meat, Performance Coaching

 

This next step,to me as a manager, is the most critical. It is the performance coaching aspect of the whole performance management cycle.  This becomes the year round work! All of the foundation work in the planning phase has gotten you started. What’s next? You spent all that time working on the deliverables, coming up with the indicators and goals to help get to the desired outcome – you have to stay on top of progress. 

At the high level – let me describe what I use”

  • Hold interim discussions and provide feedback about employee performance. The frequency of these discussions can be daily or weekly depending on the criticality of the deliverable. I also summarized and discussed, quarterly with the document in front of both of us.  Provide positive and constructive feedback.
  • Maintain a record of performance through notes, emails or whatever you use.  I like to use Microsoft OneNote for capturing my notes from our discussions. I have all of my employee’s in one notebook with each of them having a tab and the notes from every aspect on it’s own page. I also have an outlook file for each employee for the email traffic to be saved. Is that a lot of work, yes, but it is worth it – you will see later on.
  • If needed – Provide the opportunity for broader feedback. Use a 360 degree performance feedback system that incorporates feedback from the employee’s peers and customers. I say if needed for the sole reason that when the employee or yourself are not seeing things the same way. Getting additional feedback will help clear the air (for either of you).
  • Develop and administer a coaching and improvement plan if the employee is not meeting expectations. Another way of saying we have talked, we have agreed that performance is not meeting expectations and here are the focus areas to get to acceptable performance.

 

Like I wrote above, this seems a bit of extra work; it is! I used to only focus this with employee’s that struggle from time to time. What I have found is that this level of detail is necessary for every employee. It allows you the opportunity to really have a solid documented path for everyone (good or bad). When a really shining star comes up and asked how am I doing and where do you think I can go from here – you only have to skim your notes and provide a very solid answer. When I used to ask that question of some of my managers, the answers definitely seemed to come from the top of their head. I was truly wondering if they were talking about me or someone else. Providing solid feedback to all employee’s is important.

Coaching sessions or opportunities come in many flavors. There is the ad hoc version that when you see something positive or negative – you provide immediate feedback. Methods of delivery are key. If it is something that you see or hear in a team setting and it is positive – then share it with the team. Nothing shows the team more than you as the manager care then providing positive feedback to everyone. If the feedback is not positive but an opportunity for doing something better – it maybe best to discuss privately with that employee. No need to embarrass them in front of their peers. Schedule discussions – I meet bi-weekly with my employee’s and we usually have a small bit of time for us to go over performance. Those meetings really are the employee’s agenda, but they usually want some feedback and I am happy to provide  (Both positive and negative feedback). The last big feedback session is the quarterly discussion – this is where we dust off the document and review.  Along with the summarized feedback that I have capture over the weeks leading up to this session, the quarterly deliverable status and a close review of the indicators and goals. Here is where we insure we are on task, maybe need to adjust the task, get some help if needed, or whatever the course of action should be.  No one ever gets better from guessing what the are doing or how they are doing it. We may get lucky from time to time, but overall hearing feedback is necessary for meeting the desired outcome.

In a perfect world this would work 100% of the time, we do not live in a perfect world. Sometimes the employee and manager just can not get the desired outcome. Sometimes the managers coaching skills are less than acceptable. Sometimes the employee just does not hear you, they maybe listening but not getting it. There are plenty of situations out there. I think I have lived almost everyone of them.

  • When I first started out, I was not very good at coaching my employee’s on performance. I knew what needed to get done, I used to talk them through it, but really did not coach them. Over the years, I have gotten better, but from time to time, I get a little lax with my own process (especially if the team has been with me for sometime – I figure – they know.. Well, they still want to discuss).
  • I have had a couple employee’s that just did not get what I was saying. I went after the additional feedback route to help me show that the feedback is just not me – did not work. One employee in particular went as far as to tell me that everyone they are dealing with are junior folks and no one knows as much as that employee does. Now that one was a fun one.  End result, I had to document it inside of the performance appraisal and get full attention of that employee. They did not like it, but at least it did have a positive effect, for awhile.
  • Sometimes no matter what you both do – nothing seems to work. Oil and Vinegar – separate, so should you all. We all know that everything is about doing your job well and meeting the team’s goals, but sometimes for some reason it just does not happen. Time to move on. I had that situation years back. I kept trying my best to make it work. I blamed myself that it was not working. I went out and talked to my mentor, talked to whoever managed that employee in the past and anyone else I thought could help. I tried everything. What really help the employee and myself – was the employee moved to another team (and is did very well within that team). Maybe it was still me. My team started performing better, the other team was performing – so, everyone wins.

 

Bottomline, coaching is extremely important to the employee (for delivering to the desired outcome, for their overall development and for motivation). For the manager, it is a way to truly help the employee, the team and the organization meet their goals and develop into a much stronger team.