Note: The following items use examples that reference coaching to correct behavior or improve performance. However, coaching for development – to ready an employee for the next level – is crucial. You can use these points for those situations as well.
Point 1. Before coaching, check your attitude. It should be one of “I want you to be successful. I am here to help. We are in this together. I know you made a mistake, but it’s not the end of the world. Together we can make it better.”
If you are thinking “Don’t you get it? You really messed up. What a problem you caused!” then you better not coach at all. Either wait till you can change your attitude, or if you can’t, you shouldn’t be the one coaching. If the employee has repeatedly made the same mistake, then it’s not a coaching situation anymore – you should have already done that a couple times. It’s a “If you can’t change, this is not the right place for you” kind of conversation, and HR’s corrective process needs to formally be put in place.
You may have hired this person, trained them, set their expectations, supervised them, and provided their necessary resources and equipment. Perhaps you have a part in their failures?
Point 2. Remember this speaker’s adage: One breath, one topic, one sentence. Keep your sentences short and to the point. Don’t use a lot of jargon, slang or multi-syllable words. Don’t ramble, and don’t get off topic – and be alert to your employee pulling you off topic.
You may think the employee understands your company or industry jargon, but you can’t make that assumption. Keep things as clear as possible by using common language.
It’s human nature to deflect in uncomfortable situations. Expect your employee to change direction in the conversation. Be alert to that, and pull them back onto topic.
Point 3. No doubt they know they made a mistake. Don’t harp on that. Many employees are harder on themselves than you would be. Make sure they understand your expectation and focus on that, and how to reach it.
Research has shown that the number one reason employees don’t do what they are expected to do is because they didn’t clearly understand the expectation. Ask your employee to tell you what they think the expectation is. That is the only way you know for sure they got it.
Point 4. Ask questions. If you are talking more than 50% of the time, you are talking too much. Ask questions and listen. Don’t assume you know the entire situation, the reason for the error, or the best solution. Ask questions for clarification, to ensure you are both on the same page, and for their ideas on how to make things better.
Point 5. Get specifics about the solution and the changes that are going to take place as a result of the coaching. Write them down. Don’t accept a general answer like “I am going to do better.” Find out what they are going to do differently in order to do better.
Point 6. Follow up! If you don’t follow up, the message you are sending is "it really wasn’t that important". And if that’s the case, then it’s likely that their behavior will slide back to where it was before. Since it is difficult for people to change their behavior, you may need to follow up several times. This could mean just a quick comment to them to let them know you’ve observed and approve the changes you are seeing. Or, it could be a scheduled meeting to talk about how things are going with the new ways of doing things.
Coaching is an opportunity to let your employees know you care about them and their work. It often results in the manager learning something valuable too. Processes may need to be revised or training may need to be tweaked. Come to a coaching conversation prepared, yet with an open mind.