Enjoy this video transcript of this week’s Monday Moment episode.
Good morning and happy Monday! I’m Monica Wofford and this is your Monday Moment.
We’re a little more up-close personal, or maybe just one-on-one this morning, because I want to talk turkey about an issue that’s pretty important, and frankly, it’s something even I did incorrectly when I first started managing, and then leading. It’s what NOT to do when coaching employees. Any number of these 7 things, if you were to include them in your coaching conversations, can make the performance worse, the attitude even more challenging and the behavior even less reasonable. So, let’s talk about what not to do when coaching employees. There are actually seven behaviors we’ll look at in detail, and these are not behaviors of the employees were talking about but behaviors of you and I, the leaders performing the coaching.
The first step is don’t bottle up your feelings or emotions. You and I both know that there is only so much room to bottle up those emotions and that once you run out of room, as I’ve mentioned before, watch out, katie-bar-the-door, because here come all these emotions. But also, it’s just not appropriate when you bottle up how you feel about someone coming in late, or not doing their job, or rolling their eyes, or giving you a snarky look, or making that snarky sarcastic comment. It creates a history and a series of precedents when you don’t address it, but that also only serves to increase your frustration when it comes time to provide the actual coaching conversation. Don’t bottle things up. Don’t put them off. Don’t delay the conversation until you think you have enough evidence. The sooner you address something that requires coaching the faster you start making an impact on their behavior.
The second item, or action not to do: don’t overreact. Part of this is cyclical because the more you bottle up all those feelings and emotions the more you are likely to explode and overreact and to really be in their face, maybe even be excessively aggressive or overly hurt, or say something that maybe you shouldn’t have said. So, try your best to approach a coaching conversation when you’ve had adequate sleep, a key important factor to help you avoid making the chat more difficult. When you’re not overly stressed, when this is not item 15 on a list of 83 different items that you need to address today, are also important considerations. Make sure your reactions are measured appropriate for the situation and directed only to that person and not perhaps seven or eight other elements that happened to be influencing your behavior that day.
Third is certainly don’t attack the person. Don’t come at them. Don’t launch at them, not meaning physically or literally of course, but so often we do this verbally. Don’t attack a person’s character. Don’t attack who they are. Don’t attack their background, their heritage, their race, their beliefs, and while that really should go without saying, sometimes the obvious needs to be further stated. When it comes to coaching conversations there are many employees who will already be on guard and therefore already be bracing for impact. The less you can provoke what I would call defensive measures, the more effective you’re going to be in influencing their performance or perhaps their behaviors. If you feel the need to attack transfer the conversation to perhaps the boss, or another leader, a colleague or a fellow manager. Maybe it’s not you that needs to be the one who needs to deliver that information.
The fourth action to avoid is blaming up. It’s so easy to do, but so damaging. Don’t blame up in your coaching conversations. You may find that when your coaching someone about not getting their work done on time, or not being able to provide high-quality output, or not being able to sell the suite of new products that have just been introduced, the employee to whom you’re speaking can come up with a pretty darn good argument that has nothing to do with you. They might mention your boss, your boss’s boss, and/or senior leadership. Be careful not to engage in the act of blaming up and not become part of that conversation because it usurps your authority and then leads us to this next action that will damage your coaching.
The next item for you to avoid as an effective leader who is coaching employees, is not only to not blame up but don’t buddy up. Maybe that employee points out something and you think “Huh, you know, you bring up a darn good argument. Maybe you’re right. Maybe I shouldn’t have come at you so hard or maybe I shouldn’t have decided we needed to talk about coaching” or “You know, maybe you’re right. Maybe I shouldn’t put you on a plan or really focus on your performance because I know you’re trying, and I know you’re going to do better.” Leadership is not about the buddy system. It doesn’t mean you can’t be their friend, but the moment you give up your authority, the moment you lose focus or lose track of the point of your conversation, you then train that employee how to work over, workaround, or supersede your future efforts. So, don’t blame up it’s your responsibility and don’t buddy up for fear of having to follow through on your coaching actions or because they’ll get better because you befriended them.
Forget Follow Up
In fact, that leads us to our next step when you are coaching employees. One thing to certainly not fail to do or forget to do, is follow up on your consequences. Don’t dole out consequences in coaching conversations and then forget you said anything. Don’t dole out consequences, or rewards for that matter, and then forget to follow up on their performance so that you can give out the rewards or dole out the consequences. When you are asking them to change, or asking them to improve, yet you forget to follow through conveniently, so will they and it’ll bring you right back around to the very step one part of your conversation that brought you to this list in the first place. Only this time it will be you bottling up frustration of why this keeps happening and nothing you seem to be doing is working. Do different than most and do better.
But, there is one more action that almost got left off the list that we don’t want you to miss and that is don’t backpedal. I put this one at the end on purpose because sometimes we say “Oh yeah I forgot to say that” and we back pedal into a part of our coaching conversations. When you start down the road of “ Okay Susie, I have these days listed on which you’ve been tardy. I have these dates in which you’ve not met quota and I noticed that you’re not providing our new product or you’re not making sales notes and I noticed that you continue to hinder the performance of Becky because every time you walk by her you say something snarky”, or whatever the issue is that you’re addressing with this person, be careful. If you lessen the value of your evidence or lessen the severity of their behavior or simply make it not as important, for fear of creating a conflict, or fear of delivering bad news, or having a conversation that might be difficult, you then have not only trained that employee how to get around you holding them accountable for their performance, but you’ve also trained yourself that you don’t have to finish the conversation or what you started. That subtle shift in coaching is ineffective. When you train yourself that you don’t have to go through with the mention of their poor performance that you started and that you don’t have to work through the courage of giving someone performance guidance in your leadership position, you train yourself that being a mediocre leader is sufficient.
These seven pitfalls, while very, very common, are also very damaging. Try your best not to incorporate them. Practice. Avoid following up, blaming up, buddying up, and avoid your overreaction or tendency to attack. Avoid back peddling and leaning on a lack of follow-through as if that were an effective action. Avoid these actions and you’ll find your coaching is not only far more effective, but so will be their performance.
I’m Monica Wofford and that’s your Monday moment sign up at www.MondayMoment.com if you don’t get them already and have a great Monday and even better week and of course stay contagious.
Monica Wofford, CSP is a celebrated leader who develops future leaders. CEO of Contagious Companies, her firm delivers and designs leadership training for managers who’ve been promoted, but not prepared, and the leaders who promoted them. Author of Contagious Leadership and Make Difficult People Disappear, Monica and members of the Contagious team may be reached at www.ContagiousCompanies.com, www.MonicaWofford.com or by calling 1-866-382-0121.