Employee Coaching: Reality or Just Talk? | A Wake-up Call

Careers are about growth. The better we become, the more options we’ll have. 

We expect our career growth to follow these steps: 

  • Take jobs that align with our skills and knowledge
  • Complete training on processes and technical requirements
  • Apply learned skills and knowledge
  • Implement performance feedback
  • Repeat these steps 

This is the “science” of career growth, but that’s only half of it. 

It’s the art of doing your job well that delivers lasting success. 

Training programs teach job mechanics and requirements for representative situations handled by “typical” employees who aren’t you. 

Your success is influenced by your work ethic, communications skills, interpersonal behaviors, values, and personality. These are your art. 

We need coaching 

Our supervisors (coaches) arrange our training to make sure we know how to play (do our work). While we’re in the game (our jobs), they watch to see how we do. As we play, they support, correct, encourage, reinforce, and direct. That’s coaching at work in an ideal world. 

Alas, the pity! In the real world, supervisors aren’t doing much employee coaching, using excuses like: 

  • It’s too time-consuming (or not worth the time).
  • Employees are uncomfortable with my individual attention.
  • I don’t have the skills (or the patience) to coach, so I’ll do more harm than good. 

It’s time to wake up and do what needs to be done. 

Without coaching, there’s floundering. 

The pace of our professional growth is a function of the amount and quality of coaching we receive. 

Employee productivity and morale flat-lines when we don’t grow. Supervisors with stagnant employees will deal eventually with eroding performance.  

Unbeknownst to some supervisors, it’s the employee who does the work associated with the coaching. The supervisor as coach provides support, encouragement, and direction in areas where employees aren’t performing “artfully.” The employee transfers the direction on how to improve from his/her “coach” to the job. 

Everyone wins when supervisors coach. 

Be systematic. 

Keep your coaching process simple, focusing on what the employee needs to do better to move forward. Remember: You’re coaching for career growth. 

Start by focusing initially on no more than 3 employees. 

  1. Schedule individual meetings and ask each employee to bring a list of 3 possible areas for coaching. Prepare your own list of three.
  2. Start by asking the employee  to share his/her list and the reasons behind the choices. Follow with your list and reasons.
  3. Agree on which areas will be addressed.
  4. Ask the employee what specific actions s/he will take to improve.
  5. Ask what kind of coaching support s/he will need from you. Agree on what’s reasonable.
  6. Identify how you will both know if there is improvement—measures, observations, feedback from others
  7. Establish a timetable for meetings (Put the employee in charge of scheduling and running future meetings.) 

If the employee is not committed to his/her own growth, then your coaching time is better invested in someone else. So don’t chase after employees showing no initiative. 

Even as you’re coaching these employees for growth, you’re still providing performance feedback, formally and informally, to all employees, intervening when there are performance problems. There’s no rest for the weary! But it’s all good.

Recognize achievement 

The best part of coaching is seeing the growth. By recognizing the employee’s successful efforts, you: 

  • Build self-confidence and sustain motivation to continue to grow
  • Encourage others to want to be coached
  • Start to build a culture of peer coaching and self-developing teams 

Recognition can be a hand-written note from you, a gift card, or a formal celebration with his/her team, depending on conditions. 

Make coaching a reality 

A lot of organizations give lip-service to coaching. Employees know when they’re being sold a bill of goods. If employees are told the company believes in coaching for growth, then deliver. 

I bet you’ve coached a child on how to tie his/her shoes or a friend on how to use a social media widget. Coaching isn’t rocket science; it’s support, direction, encouragement, and guidance. Not only can you do this, it’s your obligation. Done well, it becomes part of your legacy.

So please give coaching for employee growth your best effort. It’s personally satisfying and very good business.