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Custom Coaching for Results March 26, 2007

Posted by David Dirks in Bronder On People, Management.

Want higher performing employees? Customized coaching is one of the ways to increase employee performance. The Big Dogz know all about custom coaching. They send their managers to special training to teach them how to do custom coaching! Here’s how it works:

Every employee has a capability to perform a certain task. The employee capability is made up of two components — knowledge and desire. The knowledge component is the employee’s awareness of how to do the task. Do they know what steps are necessary to do the task at a satisfactory or higher level of performance? The desire component is the employee’s willingness to do the task. Willingness is related to motivation, confidence and benefit to the employee. High performing managers coach their employees by customizing their coaching based upon an analysis of these two components.

Let’s look at the knowledge component first. Of course you need to specify the task as a SMARTER objective so it is clear to the employee what you want. (See Getting the Results You Want Wednesday, February 28, 2007.) If an employee does not know how to do a particular task, then you as the coach must provide instruction and closely monitor the execution of the task. You may assign a more experienced person to coach the employee or you may do it yourself. As the employee develops the skill necessary to do this task, then you back off and let them do the task with less supervision. If they are already skilled at this task, then you leave them alone and let them get the task done without you looking over their shoulder.

Do not confuse an employee’s overall knowledge and ability with the knowledge required for a specific task. Just because a bookkeeper is good at reconciling numbers does not mean they will be good at creating a sales presentation. In fact, most of your high performing people will not tell you that they do not know how to do a task. They are highly motivated and will try to figure it out for themselves. This situation can cause them to become frustrated and produce poor results. They may perceive you as “dumping” on them. There is also danger in providing too much knowledge coaching when the employee is already competent at the task. The name for this type of coaching is called micromanagement — and we all hate being micromanaged! The consequences for not customizing your knowledge coaching is that the task will not be done when you want it and you will not get the result you desire — more wasted time and money. In addition, you will damage the relationship you have with your employee.

So how do I determine if an employee can do a task at the high performance level I desire?

  • Have they done it before?
  • Ask them to explain to you how they will do what you ask.
  • Watch them for a short period of time.
  • Ask them questions about the task, like “How long do you think this will take or who will you get to help you?”
  • Have them start the task, then report status to you.
  • Watch their reaction when you ask them to do the task.

In summary of knowledge component coaching:

  • The lower the knowledge component, the more instruction you provide and the more frequently you check to see if progress is being made.
  • The higher the knowledge component, the less instruction you provide and the less frequently you check to see if progress is being made.

The second component of custom coaching is the employee’s desire to perform the task. In dealing with this component the coach focuses on the employee’s motivation, confidence and understanding of the benefits for performing the task. The approach is exactly the same as with the knowledge component. When these factors are low or missing, the coach provides more of them. When these factors are high, the coach reduces focus on these factors.

Here are some examples:

  • Assume your employee’s confidence in performing a task is low. As a coach you would provide encouragement, feedback and opportunities to prepare. If the employee’s confidence is high, then you would state your confidence in the employee and tell them you know they will be successful.
  • Your employee may not understand why a particular task needs to be done. In this scenario, you would provide classic selling to convince the employee that the task is necessary and beneficial to the company or even to them personally. If the employee already understands why the task needs to be done and is willing to do it, do not “over sell” them. Think about a time when someone was “over selling” you. How did you feel about that person?
  • It is always an effective technique to align a task assignment with an employee’s motivation factors. When you do this alignment, let the employee know you are addressing their motivational needs. When you give the assignment to the employee say something like this “Jim, you said you wanted to learn more about how the sales department works. Here’s an assignment that will allow you to meet all the sales people.” If you use this technique and you are not addressing the employee’s motivational needs, then you take the risk of de-motivating them.

If you provide too little or too much coaching for the desire component, you could adversely affect the result you will get — more wasted time and money. You will also damage the relationship you have with the employee.

So how do I determine the desire level of the employee?

  • Ask them.
  • Watch their reaction when you discuss the task.
  • Pay attention to their motivation factors
  • Listen to how they speak about the assignment
  • Ask them pertinent questions about the task.
  • Ask them how they feel about getting the assignment.

In summary of desire component coaching:

  • The lower the employee’s desire component — lack of motivation, understanding or confidence, the more encouragement, selling and motivation factors you need to provide.
  • The higher the employee’s desire component — high motivation, understanding or confidence, the less encouragement, selling and motivation factors you need to provide.

High performing managers use custom coaching to get the most out of their people. You can too. Experiment with this technique over the next thirty days to see if it can work for you. The rewards are huge!



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