Coaching to Improve Performance

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).



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