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Investing wisely in performance coaching can help us as managers, focus our coaching time. Let's face it, we have our focused pulled in many different directions each and every day. To ensure we use our coaching time wisely, we must ask the question who do we coach and how much time do we spend with each? While, most will answer, we should spend time performance coaching all of our employees equally, as it seems only fair, taking a more strategic approach to performance coaching and managing it as we would an investment, will reap much higher rewards.

There is often a mantra used in employee development, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.  That is often how we approach our high performers and top sales reps.  As we discussed in the article Sales Managers Must Coach, a highly effective coach can increase top performers results by up to 20%. To accomplish this type of performance improvement we must view performance coaching as an investment of coaching time where we are looking to reach the greatest return on our investment.

Performance Coaching as an Investment

So with limited time how does the busy manager allocate time for coaching?  We typically allocate the same amount of coaching time per employee, it seems only fair.  Sometimes we spend more coaching time with the low performers in hopes of helping them become medium performers.  Let’s think of your time as money.  Would you invest your money evenly across 5 different investments that received different returns?  No, you want to maximize your investment while mitigating some of the risk. To do so, you determine what percent to allocate to each investment based on your risk tolerance. 

Coaching Time Investment ModelHow to spread your coaching time should be looked at in a similar fashion minus the risk tolerance.  In the Hi / Lo Matrix we ranked employees on a scale with axis of Will and Skill.  For our Coaching Time Investment Model, used often in a sales environment, let’s have axis of Performance and Potential.  Star Performers are high performance and high potential. We love these folks.  Solid Performers are high performance and low potential. They tend to carry the load.  Under Achievers are high potential and low performance.  Often times, we don’t understand why they don't perform better since they have the ability to do so.  In the last category are Poor Performers.  They are low performance and low potential and are often the most draining on our time and patience.  Knowing where your employees fall will help you determine what you coach and how much time you spend performance coaching.

Where's the best Return on Your Performance Coaching Investment?

Where do you get the most return for every coaching minute?  No, it’s not the poor performers.  Since they are also low potential, you don’t want to put your money in that basket as your return on investment will be low in the best case scenario.  The next logical place to spend your time would be with the solid performers.  How many of us do that?  Well, notice they are already high performers with low potential so time spent there delivers approximately the same results you see today. So where do we allocate our coaching time and therefore coaching dollars? 

The Time Investment Coaching Model shows that under achievers and stars are where you want to spend the majority of your time.  They are high potential and therefore net you more.  Coaching time spent with the under achievers garners you the most incremental increase in performance for your coaching dollar.  They have the ability but have not yet realized the performance they have the opportunity to achieve. 

What about the Star Performers?  What more can you get from them?  On average an effective coach can help add another 10% or more in performance from their star performers.  The additional benefit is increased job satisfaction and retention. Also, don't forget you may well be coaching your next manager.

Allocating your Performance Coaching Time Investment

What is the right amount of time to allocate to performance coaching?  Since your time, and in particular your coaching time, is a limited commodity you must apply it where you will see the best results. As we've discussed, coaches often have a backwards logic to their performance coaching allocation, so rather than falling into this trap, a good rule of thumb to use is distributing your time strategically across the groups of performers. By allocating 20% to the poor and solid performers, 50-60% to the under achievers and 20-30% to the stars, you will begin to see a larger overall improvement in your team's performance.

Also keep in mind that you must achieve a balance in your overall time dedication to performance coaching. Sales and Operations research has shown that 3-5 hours per month is optimal for performance coaching.  Spending too much more coaching time than that and you can be seen as too in the face of the employee and can actually hinder their performance.  So, an hour a week is all it takes to increase performance in your Core and drive increased results. In another article we will review When, How and What we coach since this will differ for each group