How do you coach a poor performer? Learn how to gather the facts, be objective about the impact, and identify what needs to change to turn things around. Lisa Gates also gives ten guidelines for handling the conversation with the poor performer.
- Let's start with two hard truths. One, everyone including you will have performance challenges at some point in their careers. Two, poor performance is your responsibility. As a manager growing your leadership bones, you have to ask yourself, is it me or is it them? In my experience, the answer is often a bit of both but it starts with you. So let's look at the most common performance issues. Poor quality work.
Lack of time management and productivity. Absenteeism. Poor communication. Harassment and bullying. Stakeholder or customer complaints. As a manager, you can do a lot to avoid major performance issues by making sure you're setting goals and expectations with your people and regularly checking in with them. It's also a good idea to recognize good performance publicly and offer constructive criticism privately and when you learn about a performance issue, do not let it simmer.
Deal with it. You might also want to do a little self-assessment of your own. What kind of leadership or communication skills do you need to improve on? So dig deep. Own your part. And now, let's move on to some writing prompts that will help you prepare for that initial performance conversation. One, what are the facts? Two, being as objective as possible, what is the impact of your employee's performance on your team or organization? And three, what changes must be made to turn things around? Use these prompts to think through, write and practice an opening statement that's free of accusation and full of facts.
Now, let's explore the 10 guidelines for handling that first conversation and for ongoing performance coaching. Number one, set a meeting. Explain the purpose of the meeting and set the tone. Something like I'd like to discuss your performance and offer my support in finding some solutions. Number two, share what you've observed and offer specifics objectively. This is where your opening statement comes in and where you want to be sure it's free of accusation.
For example, according to the data, your numbers are down by 40%. Number three, ask for input and feedback on your observations. Remember, this is a two way conversation you're both collaborating on to solve so get your employee's perspective. It might reveal the reasons that they're not performing well like inadequate training or resources or circumstances in their personal lives. Number four, ask for reflection about how their behavior impacts the team and organization.
When people understand their impact on others, it generally motivates them to make changes. Number five, tell them what behavior is expected. Simply stated, be clear about the behavior and the results you need to see. Number six, ask open-ended questions to find solutions. Once you've clarified what you expect, brainstorm with your employee to generate options and right actions. Number seven, agree on a course of action and write it down.
Number eight, identify the stakeholders. Resolving performance issues may require reporting out to others like your boss or HR. So make sure you list the people you'll be sharing your results with. Number nine, define the consequences if expectations are not met. Now, this is highly situational. In some cases, it could be monetary as in the payout of bonuses or it could mean the difference between promotion and no promotion or being reassigned or even laid off.
Whatever the consequence, be clear and specific. Finally, number 10, create a follow-up structure for progress check ins. Remember, you're coaching for results so it's not a one and done. You have as much accountability for your employee's progress as they do. So to be successful in performance coaching conversations, let me leave you with this. Clear your head and do your best. Hold the perspective that all human beings are capable of course correction and change.
This perspective will help you set a positive tone and focus on getting results that benefit you, your employee and your organization.
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- List three strategies to assess an individual for coachability.
- Identify the essential elements of a coaching contract.
- Recall the three levels of accountability.
- Distinguish among the three levels of listening.
- Summarize strategies for coaching a low-performance employee.
- Summarize strategies for coaching a high-performance employee.