Performance Management Coaching

By Allen Macintosh

Getting started with Performance Coaching.

Allen Macintosh underlines a number of important criteria in order to successfully implement performance coaching in an organization:

  1. Before you start to coach, make sure you get trained on how to coach for performance by an expert.
  2. Once you’ve been trained, you may find out that you “will struggle to cope with coaching, both in terms of taking the skills on board and also of taking the time to put them into practice. I’ve encountered weird and wonderful excuses as to why managers don’t or won’t coach. “It’s easier and less time consuming to tell them what to do” is one common “reason” or “ I am here to manage, not to coach” is another reply I have heard.
  3. Make sure there is a qualified coach available for support.
  4. Ensure follow-up after the training in order to bring coaching alive in the organisation
  5. Before you start coaching, my advice is that you make time to ensure that you contract your coaching role.
    Sit down with your team members and explain that you will be coaching. Ensure that they realise what coaching is all about, how a coach operates, what your expectations are (check theirs!) and how coaching can benefit them personally.
    Build into that contract the fact that you are going to put time aside for coaching. Build a little extra into the contract around confidentiality and trust. Trust comes from managing expectations and keeping to the contract. Once the contract is established, start to build in time in order to start coaching. Put time aside, not only to Performance Coach “on the job” but also to coach within “Dedicated Time” frames planned in your agenda. If you are struggling with the number of tasks that you have to perform as a manager, then look at ways of developing your time and personal management skills. Putting time aside for your reports in order to discuss and coach them through their objectives and issues can move them forward as individuals in a big way!

Referring to Sir John Whitmore and book “Coaching for Performance”, good coaches are self-aware; they listen intently, question appropriately and challenge assumptions and actions. They will direct, but only when appropriate, and they only use their own knowledge and experience when they know it will move their coachee forward. In my own experience one of the main differences between a good coach and a directive manager is that the coach does not make judgments and does not let ego get in the way!
Coaching aims to enhance the performance of others through feedback, motivation, effective listening and questioning. Above all, coaching aims to enable the coachee to do it for him or herself!

Within daily management, performance coaching can happen in two main ways:

  1. “On the job”. E.g. observing a sales representative and then reviewing how the sales call went afterwards. Coaching here would support the sales rep to identify what went well and not so well. What were the reasons for it going well or not so well? How were they feeling before, during and after the call? What did they notice about their customer? If they were to do it again, now, what would they do differently? Etc, etc.
  2. By “Dedicated Time” Coaching. Here coaching takes place within a certain time frame (e.g. 1 hour) and specific topics are identified and discussed. e.g. I’m struggling with Objective Number 2. How can I get back on track? How can I influence that major customer to buy my products? Etc

In discussions with managers, a lot of good performance coaching happens while “on the job”. In terms of “Dedicated Time” Coaching most managers I have dealt with agree that it does not happen to the degree it should. There are “review” meetings held but these are for the report to keep the manager up to date with their progress, usually for the manager to report the outcomes to someone more senior.

Managers must ensure that they build both aspects of coaching into their day in order to build both capability and performance of the individual. All managers should coach themselves (or be coached) in personal management: How do you structure your day? Is there a balance between performance coaching and dedicated time coaching? Do you actually manage to build coaching time in?

The Coaching Manager: Using the G.R.O.W model

A simple coaching model to get you started in using coaching skills to support the development of yourself and your people is the G.R.O.W model (by John Whitmore), where:
G – stands for GOAL
R – stands for REALITY
O – stands. for OPTIONS
W- stands for WRAP UP and/or WILL. (I will expand on this a bit later!)

Before we go through the respective parts of the model – A HEALTH WARNING.
Using this coaching model is fine provided the manager or coach does not use the framework as just a means of asking a few questions! For example, I have heard of managers asking one or two questions per section:
What is your goal? What do you want to achieve?
Where are you now? What is the gap?
What options do you have to fill the gap?
When are you going to do the things you need to do?

FINISH. Quick coaching session! But no real depth and exploration as to what is really happening with the coachee! The secret of using GROW is to explore and to support the coachee explore specifically what they really want to achieve; to ensure they fully understand where they are at present and to check the reality of their goals and aims. Time must be taken to go through all the options available, to test the validity of each option and to test which option is the very best for the coachee at that point in time. And finally, rather than just WRAP UP as one model of GROW suggests, the WILL of the coachee to carry out the actions needed must be tested and confirmed. No point having identified what the specific goal is, and then explored all the options to find a way forward, and then having no motivation to do the actions!

Using GROW should take time!. Managers must be prepared to dedicate time to coaching. Rushing through the model will not ensure the best results and could result in total demotivation. And if you don’t have time to coach, it’s high time to coach.

So, how can we make the GROW model really work for the manager and the coachee ?

1. Put time in – at least an hour. It could be that it could take less depending on the topic or issue being discussed. It can also take more.

2. G – GOAL. Take time to fully explore exactly what they are trying to achieve. Check the realism of their goal. If what they are trying to achieve is beyond their capabilities, or above budgets, then help them to think again about a more realistic target. You may have to work hard here to continue to motivate the individual and perhaps longer term their dreams and aims can become a reality! Make sure their objectives are SMART. Specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and Time-bound.

3. R – REALITY. Check exactly where the coachee is at present in relation to their goals or objectives. Be prepared to challenge and give feedback where necessary here. I have worked with some people whose grasp of reality in relation to where they are exactly with an objective is suspect! Some people actually need to be told that they are maybe not as far ahead as they think they are. Having said that, some people are actually further ahead than they think they are. The trick here is not to tell them outright where specifically they are but to enable them to realise that for themselves!

4. O – OPTIONS. Don’t settle for the first option that comes into the coachee’s head. Explore, explore, explore. Support them to come up with a few options and then test each option by taking time to investigate the pros and cons of each. Then get the coachee to make a decision – THEIR decision – as to which is best for them. I add this in capitals because this is an area where managers can manipulate their people into what the manager thinks is the best way forward and they can “lead” the person into thinking that this option is best for them. Managers have to take risks here and let the person try the option out that they believe is the best way forward. Otherwise if you manipulate the person into doing it your way, then is there the motivation to carry out that option? This is the area where I have seen potentially good coaching managers fall down. They explore and identify the goals well, they support their people to investigate the options, and then they “manipulate” in order to get the person to carry out the option the manager is most comfortable with. Don’t do it – take a risk. I have been coached in this way on occasion and, believe me, it is not the most motivational way forward.

5. W- WRAP UP and/or WILL. Some books say WRAP UP where you now summarise all. You would re-enforce the goal or objective, the steps necessary to achieve that goal and the timescales needed to achieve each step. I prefer WILL as I believe that you can WRAP-UP and go, but, just maybe, the coachee has not fully bought in to what they are going to do. You must check this and here you must have the awareness to identify if the motivation is really what it should be. Be aware of body language, of voice tone. Is it what it should be? Ask them to tell you on a scale of 1 – 10, how motivated they are to go and carry out the necessary steps that you have agreed. 1- not motivated at all, to 10 – really buzzing, can’t wait to get started. Feel for where they are. Be prepared to challenge if your feelings are such that you detect a lack of motivation.

You can now go out and try to use GROW. Remember to contract with your coachee. Also keep reading and enlisting the support of your mentor or coach. The more information, advice and practice you get the better.

The Coaching Manager : Some common coaching mistakes and pitfalls.

I will outline the “top ten” coaching pitfalls for managers and coaches. If managers as coaches fall into these pitfalls, this can have a lasting negative effect on both the managers and their employees, so beware!

Pitfall 1: You don’t put the time in.
In order for coaching to happen, you have to put time aside. It doesn’t always take dedicated time to coach. It can be done “on the job” and this “performance coaching” can only last a matter of minutes. On the other hand you will need to put time aside for “dedicated time coaching”, especially where you are really attempting to support your employees through particular issues that require deep understanding. If you are struggling with workload then look at some time management techniques to help you manage your workload. Putting time in for your employees will bring untold benefits in the future.
Pitfall 2: You forget to contract.
Recently I asked a number of managers if they had contracted their roles with their employees. Almost all of them did not know what a contract was and what specifically was entailed within a contract. Once I had explained, most of the managers admitted to assuming that their employees knew what was expected from the managers. Assumptions do not always reflect reality! A contract is essential if you are to really understand your employees and they are to understand how you operate. A contract is the best way of managing expectations and developing a good working relationship. A firm contract is essential if you are to become a specialised coach.

Pitfall 3: You break the contract.
A contract is the beginning of building trust and respect, vital components of any working relationship. Break the contract and you run the risk of the relationship breaking down, sometimes for good.
The biggest source of broken contracts is confidentiality. If you are a “gossip merchant” then beware – change your habits or suffer the consequences.

Pitfall 4: You fail to build rapport.
You need to know about your own behavioural style and know how to identify other people’s styles. You should be able to flex your own style to match others and thereby build rapport. Failure to build rapport can, like the broken contract, lead to unproductive working relationships.

Pitfall 5: You use GROW inappropriately.
The GROW model is an excellent coaching model but care must be taken to explore fully each of the stages. You must also be very flexible, as you may have to “jump about” through the model, revisiting goals, or checking on reality, as well as fully exploring every option. On a number of occasions I have got to the Wrap-Up or Will stage only to find that the Will is not there because the goals are unrealistic at that point in time. Do not use the model quickly – failure to explore fully will lead to unrealism and demotivation.

Pitfall 6: You fail to listen intently.
There is nothing worse than a poor listener, especially when someone is attempting to help you understand what is going on in his or her work. By not listening or allowing yourself to be distracted during a conversation can lead to great frustration on behalf of the listener. Find a quiet comfortable spot away from a lot of noise before you commence any coaching sessions. Find a quiet spot to coach and Turn the mobile off!!

Pitfall 7: You are manipulative in your questioning.
One of the hardest things a coach or manager has to do is to “distance” themselves from the content of a conversation. In coaching you should not manipulate the employee into doing things that you would do, or doing them in a way that you would perform them. You have every right to think that a task should be done in a particular way – you do not have a right to impose it on the employee. Who is to say that your way is the best way anyhow? Do not use your questions so as to lead the employee to your way of thinking. You might come away satisfied that your employee is going to do your bidding, but you can bet that nine times out of ten, the employee is not motivated to carry out the actions.

Pitfall 8: You do not take calculated risks.
A big challenge for managers under pressure. What if it goes wrong? What if senior managers find out that an employee did it their own way and not the way you would like them to do it? What would happen if say, they did their way, and that way turned out to be the most productive way ever thought of? Take the risks and provided you have ensured the employee has the capability, then rarely will you regret it. You may want, though, to be in a position to effectively manage your superiors!
Pitfall 9: You coach when you shouldn’t.
Learn to distinguish between coaching and counselling. If sessions are beginning to get very “personal” and conversations become too “psychological” then prepare to back off and refer on to a qualified counsellor. There are other situations where coaching is not the preferred intervention for developing people and that you need to choose another intervention, such as giving direction, guiding and delegating.
Pitfall 10: You do not ask for regular feedback.
How do you know your coaching is being effective? How well is the contract working? What’s working well, what’s not working well? Continually checking progress is essential if the coaching relationship is to develop and become stronger. Finally, in relation to your feedback to your coachees, remember to PRAISE them for things they do well. Praise is the most powerful form of feedback. Many managers do not use enough appropriate praise.
There are many more mistakes or pitfalls we can look at. However, if you pay attention to the basics at this point then you will have good building blocks from which you can further develop your coaching skills.

Interesting Quotes :

“We must see people in terms of their potential, not their past performance”

“Building awareness, responsibility and self-belief is the goal of the coach”

“A coaching management style/culture results in getting the job well-done for 250 days a year, developing people for 250days a year, and a lot of self-belief”

“Higher than normal focused attention leads to higher than normal performance”

“We tend to get what we focus on. If we fear failure, we are focused on failure and that is what we get”. (John Whitmore)

” A coach is someone who helps you hear what you don’t want to hear, who helps you see what you don’t want to see, in order that you can be who you have always known you could be.” (Tom Landry – Top US Football Coach)

Picture of Kathleen Bosman

Kathleen Bosman

Kathleen is Professional Certified Coach ICF and member of the International Coach Federation (ICF). She is Lead trainer and Supervisor for coaches who want to acquire or renew the ICF ACC or PCC credential at the ICF ACTP-school Training & Coaching Square. She is also Executive coach and mentor-coach for leaders in organizations.