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Observation & Feedback (Coaching)

Once performance objectives and standards are established, you should observe employees' performance and provide feedback.

You have a responsibility to recognize and reinforce strong performance by an employee, and identify and encourage improvement where it is needed. You provide informal feedback almost every day. By observing and providing detailed feedback, you play a critical role in the employee's continued success and motivation to meet performance expectations.

Coaching is a method of strengthening communication between you and the employee. It helps to shape performance and increase the likelihood that the employee's results will meet your expectations. Coaching sessions provide you and the employee the opportunity to discuss her progress toward meeting mutually-established standards and goals. A coaching session focuses on one or two aspects of performance, rather than the total review that takes place in a performance evaluation.

Effective coaching can:
  • Strengthen communication between you and the employee
  • Help the employee attain performance objectives
  • Increase employee motivation and commitment
  • Maintain and increase the employee's self-esteem
  • Provide support
Key Elements of Coaching:
  • Coach when you want to focus attention on any specific aspect of the employee's performance.
  • Observe the employee's work and solicit feedback from others.
  • When performance is successful, take the time to understand why.
  • Advise the employee ahead of time on issues to be discussed.
  • Discuss alternative solutions.
  • Agree on action to be taken.
  • Schedule follow-up meeting(s) to measure results.
  • Recognize successes and improvements.
  • Document key elements of coaching session.
Questions to Consider When Coaching

To provide effective feedback you must understand the elements of performance and analyze marginal performance. Keep these questions in mind:

  • How is the employee expected to perform?
  • Does the employee understand these expectations? If not, why not?
  • Does the employee know what successful results look like? How do you know?
  • Does the employee know the performance is marginal? How do you know?
  • Are there obstacles beyond the employee's control? Can you remove them?
  • Has the employee ever performed this task satisfactorily?
  • Is the employee willing and able to learn?
  • Does satisfactory performance result in excessive work being assigned?
  • Does unsatisfactory performance result in positive consequences such as an undesirable task being reassigned?
Effective Coaching Behaviors:
  • Focus on behavior, not personality.
  • Ask the employee for help in problem identification and resolution. Use active listening to show you understand.
  • Set specific goals and maintain communication.
  • Use reinforcement techniques to shape behavior.
During the Coaching Session

If you conduct a coaching session to provide positive feedback to the employee, keep the following ideas in mind:

  • Describe the positive performance result or work habit using specific details.
  • Solicit your employee's opinion of the same product or behavior.
  • Ask the employee to identify elements that contributed to success (adequate time or resources, support from management or other employees, the employee's talent and interest in the project).
  • Discuss ways in which you and the employee can support continued positive results.
  • Reinforce for the employee the value of the work and how it fits in with the goals of the work unit or department.
  • Show your appreciation of the positive results and your confidence that the employee will continue to perform satisfactorily.
  • If appropriate, document your discussion for the employee's file.

Specific Coaching Session Formats:

A coaching session to improve performance may use the following format:

  1. Describe the issue or problem, referring to specific behaviors.
  2. Involve the employee in the problem-solving process.
  3. Discuss causes of the problem.
  4. Identify and write down possible solutions.
  5. Decide on specific actions to be taken by each of you.
  6. Agree on a follow-up date.
  7. Document key elements of the session.

A coaching session is conducted to address poor work habits such as continued tardiness may use the following format:

  1. Describe in detail the poor work habit observed.
  2. Say why it concerns you.
  3. Ask why it occurred and listen non-judgmentally to the explanation. Describe the need for change and ask for ideas.
  4. Discuss each idea and offer your help.
  5. Agree on specific actions to be taken and set a specific follow-up date.
  6. Document results from the session.

Follow-Up Discussion

To conduct a follow-up discussion, consider the following steps:

  • Review the previous discussion(s).
  • Discuss insufficient improvement and ask for reasons why.
  • Indicate consequence of continued lack of improvement. (No threats! This isn't an oral warning.)
  • Agree on action to be taken and set a follow-up date, if appropriate.
  • Convey your confidence in the employee.
  • Document your discussion.