Category: Performance Reviews

Coaching to Improve Performance

Coaching to Improve Performance

Coaching is a key skill every manager needs to learn and master to get the best performance out of all team members. No matter how good your employees are there are going to be times when you need to get them to do their job better.

Additionally, you will always have some employees who need extra attention, those who are good people but are just not meeting expectations. With the difficulty of finding good employees you need to be able to groom those employees who have potential but just need a little help.

When to Coach and When to Discipline

Sometimes it is hard to know when you should coach and when you should discipline. Here are some basic guidelines. Coaching should be used when an employee is putting in the effort but is falling short of expectations. Discipline is employed as a last resort effort when coaching has failed. If you have attempted coaching, given the employee all the tools they need, and they still cannot, or choose not, to meet expectations then it is time to resort to disciplinary action.

Steps of Coaching

The first thing you need to do before you start coaching is to gather your facts. What things is the employee falling short on, what do they need to improve, what are the expectations – are some of the questions you need to answer.

Gather Facts

Gather all facts before sitting down to work on a coaching plan. Make sure that you have very clear examples and clearly stated expectations. You need to demonstrate what the current performance is and what the expected performance is. Make sure that you consider what actions need to be taken to get the employee from current to future state of performance. Also, put together a list of resources that will be made available to help the employee improve their performance.

Fill out Your Coaching Script

Make sure you use a coaching template so that you have a document clearly laying out performance expectations and examples of performance deficits. This needs to be in writing so that way you have a document that can be referred to later to track improvements. Sign up for my email list (below) and I will provide you with a free coaching document template in both PDF and Excel formats.

The parts of the coaching script are as follows:

  • Nature of the problem
  • Observed Behavior
    • Facts related to current performance
  • Behavior Variance
    • Description of how current performance varies from desired performance
  • Desired Behavior
    • A description of what ideal performance would look like
  • What would you like me to know about this?
    • This is a time for the employee to tell his side of the story
  • What do you think needs to happen to make improvements?
    • The employee must be part of the solution
  • Range of consequences
    • If performance expectations are not met what are the range of consequences and time frame for meeting expectations
  • Agreement and action plan
    • A collaborative action plan between the employee and the manager intended to get the employee to the desired performance level
  • Success check dates
    • Scheduled dates to check in with the employee to ensure progress is being made and see if any other assistance is needed
  • Signed commitment
    • Employee and manager sign the agreement both giving their commitment to the employee’s success

Schedule Your One on One Coaching Session

After you have your coaching document filled out schedule a one on one meeting with the employee. Make sure that you schedule at least one hour, but no more. You want to leave room for open discussion. Schedule the meeting in a private area free from interruptions so you can talk honestly and openly.

Conducting the Coaching Session

Always keep the focus on your desire to help the employee improve their performance. This shouldn’t be a complaint session. Ensure that you have the best interest of the employee in mind. You need them to know that you are concerned about them as a person and your goal is to help them succeed. They will be much more open and accepting of the performance criticism and coaching if they feel you are looking out for their best interest.

Follow Up

To make sure the employee is staying on track, and to show them that you are sincere about wanting them to succeed, you need to check up on them frequently. Do not wait for your schedule checkup dates to see how they are doing. Have daily check ins. These can be brief, informal, five-minute discussions to ask how it’s going and see if they need anything. Keep your scheduled on-on-ones and make sure to give time and privacy to those meetings.


It is difficult to find and retain good employees. Managers need to take those employees who show potential, but aren’t meeting expectations, and work with them to improve their performance. By coaching employees, we can use passion and concern to demonstrate that we have their best interest in mind and work with them to improve their performance to meet expectations. Coaching an employee is cheaper than recruiting new employees. When we take the time to care about others and help them excel in their work we create more dedicated and engaged employees.

For more resources sign up for A Manager’s Diary email list. When you do I will send you a free copy of my coaching form (PDF and Excel formats), the Employee Performance Tracker (PDF), A Guide to Dealing with Difficult People (PDF), and my book The Peaceful Manager: A Beginner’s Guide to Managing People (Paperback and PDF).



Performance Review Should be about Facts not Emotions

Performance Reviews Should be about Facts not Emotions

Performance reviews are one of the most unpleasant activities for a manager. And they are also unpleasant for the employee. Too often managers make the performance review about their opinion. Too many managers get hung up on how they feel about the employee and their performance rather than on the facts. When this happens it creates a tense situation where each side becomes embedded in their own emotionally charged beliefs.

Facts Not Feelings

When evaluating an employee’s performance you should always focus on facts and not on feelings. When speaking about things that need to improve avoid phrases like: “I think…”, “I feel…”, “I believe…”. While you may think, feel, and believe these things use facts to support the improvements you would like to see and to demonstrate where the employee has fallen short.

When we use subjective terms based on feelings it puts the employee into an emotionally defensive position. They may very justly feel that they are being picked on; that your valuation of them is based on feelings instead of facts.

As an example: you have an employee who is not meeting performance expectations. They do not consistently meet productivity numbers, they have too much down time, and they leave a piece of equipment set up poorly.

If you did your homework you have tracked the incidences where expectations were not met. You have dates and numbers to back up your beliefs so that they aren’t beliefs, but are actual facts. It is hard to argue with facts. Also, facts are not based on emotions. Just be careful that your fact gathering isn’t emotionally charged. You need to be gathering facts for all employees not just ones you don’t like.

Clear Expectations

As a result of unclear expectations performance review become confrontational. When a manager fails to set clear expectations and identify successful outcomes an employee becomes confused as to what they need to do to be successful. The result is that the review becomes the managers personal judgement of the employee from a subjective point of view. The manager might have known what they expected, but if they did a poor job of communicating it then there will be a lot of stress and anxiety on the part of the employee when it comes to the review of their performance.

Make sure that you have metrics to judge performance and that they have been clearly communicated and are reasonable in order to keep expectations clear. Do not make expectations so tough that there is no hope of meeting them, but at the same time do not make them so easy that they do not challenge your people.

Check in with employees on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis to let them know how they are doing. Failure to communicate with your people in regard to how they are doing throughout the year will create anxiety when it comes to the performance review. Frequent check ins also allow employees a chance to correct problem performance before the annual performance review.

It’s not Personal

A performance review shouldn’t be about egos. It isn’t about whether or not you personally like the person. Let’s face it there are going to be employees who have personalities that don’t sync with our own. Your personality may rub some of your employees wrong. This is just human nature. We aren’t going to like every person we manage and not every person we manage is going to like us.

Don’t take things personally. You need to do your best to remove your own personal biases from the process and focus on objective measures to give a fair and accurate performance appraisal.

The objective of the performance review is to give the employee facts to improve their performance; to let them know what they are doing well and where they need to improve. The purpose is to help the employee improve and to help the company as a whole improve.

Another important aspect to consider is counterfactual thinking which is defined as “thinking focused on how the past might have been, or the present could be, different. These thoughts are usually triggered by negative events that block one’s goals and desires” (Psychology).


Managers and employees should not see performance reviews as an uncomfortable and necessary evil. It should be a time to give positive praise as well as constructive criticism. The focus should be aimed at improving employee performance and helping the employee understand how they can best support the company in meeting goals.

If you are communicating expectations clearly and having frequent discussion with your employees throughout the year there should be minimal anxiety when going into the annual performance review process. If employees know where they stand, and have received frequent feedback, it decreases anxiety as they know what to expect when it comes to performance review time.

Good record keeping and frequent tracking of performance will give you the facts you need to give a fair, unbiased assessment of performance. Avoid emotional based valuations. Stick to facts – what are the expectations, where has the employee fallen short (clear examples), and what needs to be done to meet expectations.

It is never easy to judge other people and tell them the truth, but it is absolutely essential to the success of any business. It is not just about the needs of the business but also those of the employee. Giving fair, honest, and unemotional performance reviews will help employees perform their jobs to a higher level. If you show genuine concern for the employees, and their personal improvement, it will help to diffuse the emotional nature of performance appraisals.

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