As companies look for ways to revitalize the employee performance review process, workplace coaching has become a popular topic. But what exactly is workplace coaching, and what does effective coaching look like?
Teaching might actually be a better word to describe the process than coaching. When you imagine a coach, you probably picture someone shouting instructions from the sideline, doing much more talking than listening. But shouting instructions at employees—shouting at all—won’t get you very far.
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Effective workplace coaching is a collaborative dialogue between managers and employees. The goal is to identify areas for improvement, help employees learn from mistakes, and encourage employees to take a proactive role in their development. Ultimately, a good coach/manager should help an employee improve their day-to-day performance while also developing their skillset and knowledge to prepare them for the next step in their career—ideally as a leader within the organization.
How to Be a Good Coach
It all starts with listening. Good teachers are good listeners. They open the door for employees to speak their mind and share their ideas without fear of judgment. They look at mistakes as learning opportunities that will help an employee grow. And they’re able to ask questions to guide the employee toward an answer rather than simply telling them what to do.
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The key thing for managers to understand is that employees are hungry for this type of coaching. A survey of executives found that about half of managers only spend 10% of their time coaching. Perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise then that 85% of millennials surveyed said they would feel more confident if they could have more frequent conversations with managers.
And rather than shying away from constructive criticism, the majority of employees actually embrace it. A Harvard Business Review survey asked respondents if they would prefer praise/recognition or corrective feedback, and 57% said they would prefer the latter. And when asked what would be helpful in their career, 72% of respondents said they believed their performance would improve if their managers would provide corrective feedback.
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Even though it’s not always easy to hear, 9 out of 10 employees from the same survey agreed with the statement, “Negative (redirecting) feedback, if delivered appropriately, is effective at improving performance.” That caveat, “If delivered appropriately”, highlights the importance of one-on-one coaching conversations. Employees are open to hearing negative feedback, but it should be in a private setting where they have a chance to ask questions, engage in conversation, and don’t risk public embarrassment in front of their peers.
Setting the Right Cadence
Coaching shouldn’t be considered a disciplinary measure, nor should it be reserved for moments when an employee has made a mistake. Engaging in coaching conversations only during negative moments will foster a negative connotation for the process, and employees may respond by closing themselves off to feedback.
Coaching should be part of regularly scheduled check-in meetings between managers and their reports. Ideally, it will be one component of ongoing positive conversations where an employee’s goals and development are the priority.
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