When you think about it, there’s very little difference between the way your favourite sports team operates and the way the ideal company is run. At least, there shouldn’t be. Both should be led by a dedicated, enthusiastic leader who is determined to encourage their team and give them what they need to succeed. Both should be filled with engaged and motivated team players who know what they’re doing and are driven to do their very best — not just for their own personal glory but also for the overall success and betterment of the team that they are a part of.
It is perhaps for this reason that employee performance coaching conversations have become so popular recently — in fact, coaching conversations are one of the biggest performance management trends of recent years. Coaching conversations have been known to increase employee motivation and engagement, create a company culture of collaboration and increased teamwork, and improve job satisfaction and employee morale levels. Put very simply, when leaders decide to become coaches, they bring out the best in terms of performance — 85% of millennial employees say that they would feel more confident if their managers engaged them in regular coaching conversations.
If you’ve never incorporated coaching conversations into your performance management system before, you’re probably looking for some pointers to ensure your time spent is productive and effective. Below are our five top tips on how to establish a motivational collaborative dialogue between manager and employee that will result in increased productivity and a more proactive workforce.
1. Make coaching conversations regular and frequent
For performance coaching conversations to be truly productive, a certain level of trust needs to exist. Employees need to know that their managers are in their corner and cheering them on. They also need to be familiar and comfortable with them — this won’t happen if communication and contact are infrequent and strained.
To develop trust and build relationships, keep the channels of communication open and flowing. Make the time for regular coaching conversations — monthly discussions with each employee might sound like quite a time investment at the start, but this investment will pay off in terms of performance and employee engagement. Let your employees know you are there for them if they ever need additional coaching and make sure to schedule your next coaching conversation when your current conversation comes to a close.
2. Learn to ask the right questions
Put the image of a stereotypical coach out of your mind — you won’t be shouting at your employees and micromanaging them from the sidelines. You won’t be lecturing or hovering. Rather, you’ll be asking useful questions — questions that encourage your employees to take ownership over their performance progress and career development. The right questions can truly help employees discover their own solutions to pressing problems, creating an independent and autonomous asset to your team.
When it comes to asking coaching questions, it’s recommended you use the GROW model. GROW, which stands for Goal, Current Reality, Options and Way Forward, is a useful and well-known technique that can help you ask the right questions at the right time.
G — Goal. This is when you establish the purpose of the conversation. What are you aiming to achieve and why? Are you trying to overcome a performance obstacle or making a plan for career development or training? What is your ideal outcome in this situation?
R — Current Reality. This step is all about situational context. How would you describe the current situation? What is happening now within the company that could be influencing the situation? This step will help to establish the basics of a particular situation so you will be better able to help the employee and understand their requirements.
O — Options. This is the problem-solving phase. The goal of this phase is to challenge the employee to think through their problems and arrive at their own conclusions. It’s important to give employees the freedom to arrive at their own solutions, but it’s the manager’s position to nudge the employee along with questions, where appropriate, such as “What advice would you give your colleague if they were in a similar situation?”
W — Way forward. In this final phase, employee and manager establish a solid and pragmatic plan — specific actions are set, along with a realistic timescale. Managers should ask what tools and resources they will need from management and how long the employee will need to complete his or her tasks.
3. Actually listen to what your employees say
It’s important to ask the right questions — but if managers don’t actually listen to the answers, it’s been a pointless activity. Employees need to know you are paying attention to them and taking on board what they have to say — what’s more, listening has been shown to make managers better leaders.
During performance coaching conversations, managers need to encourage employees to speak their minds and deliver feedback without fear of repercussions. Once you are receptive to what they are going through, their struggles and their strengths, you’ll be in a better position to coach them to better performance.
4. Listen to what your employees don’t say
Sometimes we need to listen with more than our ears — in fact, sometimes what our employees don’t say can speak volumes. According to one source, communication is only 7% verbal. The rest we say with our tone of voice (38%) and our body language (55%). During coaching conversations, managers should pay attention to (and address) nonverbal cues.
If an employee insists they are fine, that they aren’t stressed and aren’t upset, but you get the sense that they are holding back, you should feel free to confront the situation head-on. Encourage the employee to talk — the more willing we are to communicate, the better able we are to arrive at conclusions and solutions that suit all of us.
5. Give your employees your undivided attention
Everyone is busy — we all have other things we need to be doing. But if managers appear distracted and disengaged during coaching conversations, employees won’t feel compelled to share or engage.
During coaching conversations, set electronics aside. Don’t answer calls, don’t check emails and don’t keep a strict eye on the clock. This will show your employees that for that time, they are your priority and you are dedicating all your mental energy to helping them. It’ll also show your employees that you take coaching conversations seriously, which will encourage them to do so, too. Before long, coaching sessions will become something employees look forward to and genuinely value.