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Coaching Excellence: How to Address Poor Performance

 

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The following article is an excerpt taken from “The Ten Laws for Coaching Excellence”

Part Five: Situation Three – How to Address or Facilitate Poor Performance

In part one of this five part series on coaching we detailed how to have a good conversation in the first of three difficult situations called “How to have a Facilitative and Motivating Conversation with an Employee”.

In part two we looked at how to have have a good conversation with an employee in a second difficult situation, Delegating a Simple but Boring Task.

In part three we explored why employees get defensive or difficult and what we can do about it.

In part four we analyzed a big mistake that many managers make, that is using what is commonly called the “Praise Sandwich”.

We also suggested a more productive way to give feedback to employees.

In this post, we will describe how address an employee’s poor performance.

 

Situation Three: How to Address or Facilitate Poor Performance

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Situation: You need to initiate the conversation to make a point or correct poor performance.

You might recall that after determining that the employee could do what you needed if they chose to, there are five steps you can take:

1)  Get their agreement that a problem exists by using observed behavior and objective standards.

2)  Identify the likely cause.

3)  Discuss alternative solutions and/or have them develop a solution.

4)  Mutually discuss the alternative solutions and agree on the best action to be taken.

5)  Follow up to measure results and reinforce the good results when they occur.

The key is to focus on observable behaviour that the two of you can agree about without unhelpful emotion and different interpretations.

This means suspending biases, past experiences, and assumptions and focusing on the specifics of a given situation.

Example

For the past two Fridays Celeste has arrived about 20 minutes late for your weekly team meeting. She has never been late before.

 She offered no excuses, either at the meeting or later.

 You decide to address this issue with her.

Approach Number One

Celeste, we have a problem and it’s time to do something about it. You’re not being fair to the team and frankly, you are not showing much respect for me.

 You have to share equal responsibilities here and the way you have begun to casually drop in on our staff meeting exemplifies the wrong kind of attitude.  Am I being too critical or unfair?

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Likely Response:

What do you mean a “bad attitude”?

 I’m the one who is always the first to volunteer for the weekend when you need someone here. As for teamwork, I’ve probably led more United Way campaigns and blood drives than anyone else on the staff. Everyone in that room respects my work and contributions.  How can you accuse me of such things?

 Approach Number Two

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1) Get their Agreement that a Problem Exists Using Observed Behaviour and Objective Standards

You: “Celeste, I noticed you’ve been 20 minutes late for the staff meeting for the last three Fridays. Is that right?”

 Celeste: “Yes, that is correct”.

 A good analogy for this is to report in neutral language exactly what happened as if you had a DVD of the actual event, incident, situation, and episode as it actually happened.

2)  Identify the Likely Cause

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You: “You have never been late before, as far as I know. What is causing it now and is it likely to continue?”

 Celeste: “It is the traffic and I don’t see away to escape it in the immediate future”.

 You: “What changed? The traffic seems no worse than usual and the rest of us are still getting here on time. Is there something different that affects you?”

 Celeste: “Actually, there is.

 My husband has changed jobs and can no longer take our children to daycare on Friday mornings.

 Since the daycare doesn’t open until 8:00 and it is in the opposite direction from work, I really can’t make it here much before 9:20 or 9:30.

3) Alternative Solutions and/or Have Them Develop a Solution

You: “Okay, now I understand what is going on.

 I’ll tell you what; why don’t you spend some time today figuring out all the options that would correct this problem and then, if you need my help, we can talk this afternoon?

 We need you at the meeting and I am sure we’re all, smart enough to resolve this easily.”

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4)  Mutually Discuss the Alternative Solutions and Agree on the Best Action to be Taken

5)  Follow up to Measure Results and Reinforce the Good Results When They Occur

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What is right/wrong with the first approach?

In the Second Scenario, the Manager did Two Things

1. Before trying to solve anything, he verified the performance deviation with Celeste.

 “Celeste, I noticed that you’ve been about 20 minutes late for the staff meeting for the last three Fridays. Is that right?”

 That approach places the conversation on civil, objective grounds.

 2.  He enlisted Celeste to acknowledge the cause (a new schedule, daycare, and traffic) and try to do something

Problems, Causes and Solutions

1.  Problems that are acknowledged by the report become objective issues rather than matters of “blame”.

 2.  Causes that are identified by the report become changes to implement rather personal feelings.

 3.  Solutions created by the report become “owned’ and are self perpetuating rather than unfair management edicts from people who ‘don’t understand me”.

The Two Big Bonus Questions

If this doesn’t go quite as you would wish it to, two excellent direct but facilitative questions with respect to poor performance:

 1. What happens or will happen to the organization, department, team or group etc. if or when you do that?

 2. What happens or will happen to you if or when you do that?

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How to Facilitate the Obstinate and Wrong Person: You Have Two Options.

Option One: You Tell Them

What you of course want to say to someone and have them accept is “You are Ok but what you did isn’t.

You made a mistake and need to correct it, learn and not do it again.”

 Of course, people (that is their brain) immediately (either overtly or covertly) offer up excuses in the three fold manner described above.

 

 Option Two: They Tell You

The genius of facilitation is that instead of you telling them, they tell you “I made a mistake and need to correct it, learn from it and not do it again.”

 Which option is better?

Review

In part one of this five part series on coaching we detailed how to have a good conversation with employees called “How to have a Facilitative and Motivating Conversation with an Employee”.

In part two we looked at how to Delegate a Simple but Boring Task.

In part three we explored why employees get defensive or difficult and what we can do about it.

In part four we analyzed a big mistake that many managers make, that is using what is commonly called the “Praise Sandwich”.

In this last post on coaching, we described how address an employee’s poor performance.

I trust these five articles on coaching have been helpful.

Good luck.

For more on this topic, we recommend the following

Book

The Ten Laws for Coaching Excellence

How to Empower Employees and
Coach Superior Performance

Click Here For Video and Full Description

 

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