Coaching Employees to Improve Performance


The boss of yesterday has a hard time supervising the employee of today.  Creating productive employees takes more than being a boss.  It is about being a coach and a mentor.  We all remember someone in our career that helped us become successful.  What was it we liked about that person?  Are you emulating that to your employees?

Here are some insights to creating successful and productive employees through successful coaching.

People reflect their views of life.  We all bring our attitudes about life to work–some good, some bad.  For many employees, their commitment to their job and to your business ends at the end of each workday.  Can you expect more if you only pay them by the hour?  Ask yourself what would it take to make them have more of an “owner’s attitude”?  To understand their attitude you must get closer to understanding what makes them tick and what motivates them.  It is not uncommon for managers to spend less time with those problem employees whose attitudes don’t match theirs.  But it is your job as coach to spend enough time with them to understand and motivate them.  Bring them under your wing just like your mentor did when you were younger.

Unmotivated often means discouraged.  When you notice people’s productivity drop off, don’t assume they don’t care.  More often than not, something bothers them that is keeping them from being excited about work.  Years ago “Betty” was passed over to my department because everyone complained they couldn’t get her to work.  I asked her how she felt about being shuffled from place to place, and tried to get a sense of what she wanted out of her new position.  She was simply disappointed that no one seemed to trust her to do a good job or to give her responsibility. In no time at all people around the plant were amazed at how well “Betty” was doing.  I would like to say it was years of experience that helped me bring out the best in “Betty.”  Fact is, I was a young supervisor learning the ropes and didn’t know any better than to just have a caring, candid conversation with her.  Sometimes managing people is as simple as having the difficult conversation.

Consequences determine performance.  This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.  We have known this since we were disciplined by our parents.  However, that doesn’t mean we have to punish those who falter.  First, create positive consequences for those whose actions deserve it.  For those whose behavior is less than satisfactory, create the consequence that will alter the behavior.  Remember to take the time to customize the response.  Years ago, a company gave an expensive watch to its entire sales staff.  Many were impressed.  Me, I would rather have had a climbing rope or a backpacking tent.  Know enough about your employees to make sure the consequence creates the behavior you want.  Also, don’t make the mistake of assuming that your employees are motivated by the same factors that motivate you.  They often aren’t.

Coaching is a skill that—like any essential skill—must be practiced to get it right.  Keep fine tuning the process, and you will soon observe your own increasing effectiveness.

Jim Kress works with small businesses on management and marketing problems.  He can be reached at Central Oregon Community College at 541-383-7712.


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