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Managing Staff Performance by Coaching: The Coach Model for People Managers

Managing staff performance by coaching has gained in popularity in recent years, but how many people managers really understand what a coach looks like? Generally a Coach is defined as a person who gives instruction and imparts knowledge.  Sounds a little like a trainer doesn't it?  Well, there are many similar qualities.  Adult Learning Theory teaches us people learn in three distinct ways; Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic.  Have you ever participated in training that took the time to use all three ways to learn? 

Even if training has used three approaches, it’s up to the people managers and coaches to follow-up with their employees to ensure the learned skill is understood and used. When managing staff performance by coaching, applying the Coach Model will help simplify the steps both new and tenured people managers need to focus on to build a solid coaching foundation and ultimately to see a performance improvement from their team.   

The Coach Model: Present, Caring, Inspiring and Rigorous.

Let’s define each.

The Coach Model: Present - being, existing, or occurring at this time or now; current; mentally alert and calm.  

People managers or coaches must not only be physically there, but mentally there with their employees.  Being with your team is a given but more importantly you need to be emotionally and mentally there.  Ever met with your manager or any person and they constantly checked emails or took phone calls?  Did you feel like they were paying attention?  When managing your staff by coaching, being Present is paying attention and being 100% available to the person with whom you are speaking.  If the coach is not present, the employee will get the signal that they, or the subject at hand, are not important.

The Coach Model: Caring – To be concerned or interested; To provide needed assistance or watchful supervision.

How many people managers say,"Hey, this is business, I am not getting involved in my employees personal life.  That could become a sticky situation."?  True, but there is a difference in people managers getting involved in their personal life vs. taking an interest in them as a person.  All people respond to others when they know they are interested in them; that you want the best. The coach can show this in many ways the best being to assist them in their job, listen attentively, help them develop.  By the way, it isn't too personal to know the names of their children or pets or what their hobbies are.

The Coach Model: Inspiring – to fill with an animating, quickening, or exalting influence; to fill or affect with a specified feeling, thought.

When you think of someone you know that is inspiring, what do they look like?  Are they larger than life?  Are they meek but with values you respect?  We often think of people that inspire as gregarious or outspoken.  People managers and coaches come in all shapes and sizes and to say they must all be outspoken would be too limiting.  The coach that inspires encourages, values creativity and diversity, sees things differently, and opens doors to learning. Better stated, these people managers inspire the employee to grow and to find new ways to get things accomplished. When managing staff performance by coaching, how much easier will getting results be if your team is inspired to perform?

The Coach Model: Rigorous - severely exact or accurate; precise; rigidly accurate; allowing no deviation from a standard.

So far we have described people managers who are coaches as someone who is there for their people mentally and physically.  They care and they show it.  They find various ways to encourage and inspire.  But is coaching all fluff?  It certainly is not. The top of the pinnacle, to cap off the characteristics of a coach, is rigor.  These people managers must be rigid in holding employees, and themselves, accountable to the set standards.   If an activity or interaction should be handled a certain way, it should be handled that way all the time.  When managing staff performance by coaching it is crucial that the coach set the standards by which employees are measured.  There can be no understanding of deviation from standards or expectations.  Because the coach is present, we know the employees know and understand the expectations. So if a rigorous coach encounters deviation from their expectations, do they stop coaching and move to Performance Management? Not necessarily.  It always depends on the circumstances as to whether Coaching or Counseling is the best approach and simply put, people managers cannot condone sub-standard performance, nor will they.

You may wonder why they are in a specific order.  As people managers, you tend to build these skills/characteristics in this order.  Being present is Management 101.  You have to be there and you need to pay attention.  People managers and coaches practice Management By Walking Around (MBWA) and spend one-on-one time with their employees.  People managers take it from management to coaching when they add caring to the equation.  They then begin showing their employees they are more than a number. 

Then layer on the influence and growth they inspire when they encourage employees to think differently, value diversity and change in order to grow and develop.  You can envision a team of employees helping each other, making recommendations to change processes in order to make things easier for their customers.  It’s a magical thing.

Lastly when managing staff performance by coaching, add on the desire to do things right the first time, every time; rigorous, rigid adherence to the values and standards that have been set for the team and business.  Being present, caring and inspiring makes it easier to be rigorous because your employees know what the expectations are.  The coach has built the foundation by which the employee and the team live their day to day work lives. You have now put the full picture of the Coach Model together and by doing so, when managing staff performance by coaching, you should see an increased passion from your team to deliver results and an easier coaching path when working to change behaviors.

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