Effective Coaching 101

I was having a late lunch recently after facilitating a morning workshop.  It was after the lunch rush and before the early dinner diners arrived.  The restaurant was pretty much mine and mine alone, and the manager decided it was an ideal time for a team meeting.

He pulled most of the team into a corner away from my table.  Based on the initial mood of the staff, it must have been a pretty good day. There were smiles, some laughter and a general sense of camaraderie.

Then the young manager stood up to speak and the positive energy disappeared.  First the smiles left, then the shoulders started slumping and then fixed stares at points on the wall or table appeared. Here’s why:

  • The manager started off the meeting with the phrase “I am really tired of the way …” and then berated the entire group for a shift closing activity that hadn’t been completed correctly three times in the last month.  He then went on to say that if it happened again, they would be penalized financially.
  • He indicated that if they couldn’t get the work done on time then they had to stay late to finish, no ifs, and, or buts.
  • The phrases “I don’t like doing this, but I will” or “you leave me no choice” was used a few times.  (Does that remind anyone besides me of their dad?  I distinctly remember hearing the “this hurts me more than it hurts you” or “I’m doing this for your own good” phrase a few times when I was growing up!)
  • And in closing he said “I know that everyone needs to hear this, not just you so don’t worry, the people who aren’t here will be told the same thing.”  Based on the fact the staff were still slumping and silently staring at invisible spots, it’s safe to say their sense of worry was not alleviated in the slightest!

The young lady working my section was one of the lucky ones.  She was able to leave to take away my plate and bring me my bill.  It took a little longer than it should have, but I couldn’t blame her.  I’d probably do anything I could to delay my return to a meeting like that as well.

Here are just a few of thoughts / questions that popped into my mind while observing this incident:

  1.  Has the manager taken the time to find out who was responsible for the three shift-closing errors?  If not, why and if so, why was everyone hearing this message instead of just the people responsible?
  2. Why had it taken three incidents for the situation to be addressed, instead of addressing it the first time with the people who were actually working that night (and of course finding which individual was responsible first.)
  3. Why was he threatening to penalize the entire staff for one or two individual’s errors? Perhaps it was a misguided attempt to get everyone to help each other out so that nobody would be penalized.  Chances are, it will instead create a culture of mistrust.
  4. Were the incidents a result of bad attitude or poor training? Could the manager answer that question?

Coaching for performance is a skill and perhaps this young manager hadn’t been taught how to coach effectively. Some quick pointers for him would be:

  1. Deal with incidents as they arise; don’t wait for repeats.
  2. Find out who was responsible for the performance standard gap and work with that individual directly.
  3. Find out why the employee didn’t perform to standard and then come up with solutions together to fix it.
  4. Be respectful at all times.
  5. Don’t berate in public.  Actually, don’t berate at all.  If a performance issue arises, find a quiet, private place to meet with the individual.  (Ties back to respect.  It’s humiliating to be “punished” publicly.)
  6. Threats are poor motivators.  Instead, work with the employee to identify how performance improvement is beneficial to the organization, the team and the individual.
  7. Follow up.  Don’t coach and forget,  as that sends the message the change required isn’t really that important.
  8. Sit with employees instead of standing over them, especially during coaching sessions.  It helps create trust, a key factor of successful coaching.

What other tips would you share with this young manager?

3 thoughts on “Effective Coaching 101

  1. If there truly was a wide-spread, not isolated, incident…which it rarely is, a praise sandwich with ample recognition and inspiration would have gotten that team much further!!!

    • Yes it would! Recognizing the positives and expressing confidence that the standard can be met, while reinforcing what was not being done well, would have been more effective. Thanks for your input.

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