Everyone's heard the old saying, "The squeaky wheel gets the grease." In a fast-paced work environment, where the focus is on getting a product out the door or resolving customer issues, the same attitude is usually taken about coaching. Coaching is often viewed as necessary only when employee performance is unbearably poor or when employees are so discouraged they leave. For entrepreneurs, who often have smaller staffs and budgets, coaching may also seem like an unnecessary expense.
Among these misperceptions about coaching, you may also be a business owner who thinks you're too busy with your own work to spend extra time training, communicating or boosting employee morale, but consider this: Your leadership can help create motivated, productive employees. These high-performance employees will, in turn, lighten your workload. And while you're at it, also consider the benefits of formal and informal employee development tools, such as monthly, quarterly or annual performance appraisals and planned performance improvement sessions which are used by highly successful companies to bring out the best in their employees.
Before developing and implementing new coaching methods, ask yourself if your company has a work environment that welcomes coaching. Are employees encouraged to share their questions, concerns, opinions and ideas, or does your company have a management style that operates in a more autocratic, non-participatory manner?
After ensuring that your company is open to coaching, make sure any managers in your company know how to coach properly. The most effective leaders, coaches and mentors ensure that they're approachable, active listeners and growth facilitators and that they guide employees as needed.
Coaching that works consists of constructive, consistent feedback aimed at increasing awareness and resulting in improved performance. Constructive, consistent feedback can be adopted into a company's culture as a systematic approach to employee development. Then once coaching's been established as part of your company's work culture, opportunities for coaching need to be identified. These opportunities are often simply managers and supervisors taking advantage of occasions, both formal and informal, to coach. The best leaders more easily identify these occasions by familiarizing themselves with employees' work habits, performances, goals and motivations.
Taking advantage of appropriate informal opportunities to coach also takes the stress out of coaching. It trains leaders to manage their time more effectively by capitalizing on opportunities to reward, encourage and direct performance outcomes during the normal course of any workday, while relying on the business's formal planned processes to review progress and set planning sessions, performance measures and expectations for the future.
Remember, too, that coaching is important not only when there's concern about poor performance or when performance is at its peak, but when performance is somewhere in the middle. Given the fact that the majority of employee performance ratings occur somewhere between outstanding and poor, this "in between" range is where coaching can have its greatest impact.
Retaining top talent and boosting employee morale are vital to your company's success. So rather than waiting for things to go wrong, or accepting subpar performance, it's important that employees receive ongoing performance feedback, or interim coaching, because if you want better employees, you just might have to make them.
Mary Massad is the director of HR product development for Administaff, a leading personnel management company that serves as a full-service human resources department for thousands of small and medium-sized businesses throughout the United States. For additional HR information, visit HR PowerHouse, an HR website powered by Administaff.