Eliminate 4 Mistakes From Your Coaching Manual

January 6, 2017

Coaching mistakes in the workplace

The use of coaching strategies at work can boost individual and organizational effectiveness. But when coaching is not done well, it may alienate employees and undermine performance.

Here are four mistakes that coaches make and how to avoid them:

Failing to orient a new employee

Coaches who neglect to orient an employee or postpone orientation may find themselves with a potentially effective employee whose work is starting to flounder. Such employees are off track because no one has taken the time to put them on the right track. The manager hasn’t clarified the performance level expected or filled skill gaps that were identified during recruitment.

Aware of a new hire’s shortcomings during interviewing, we often plan to close that gap with training once the individual is at work. Unfortunately, by the time this person is on board, the situation has gotten to the point that our first thought is to get him or her to work. We don’t do a training needs assessment or develop a training plan for the individual to ensure that his performance is up to standard, let alone review with the employee the job description and discuss specifically our performance expectations.

Employees shouldn’t be forced to fill in the gaps in either expectations or skills by trial and error. The likelihood is too great that they will make mistakes, injure their self-confidence, and gain reputations as poor performers.

Breaking implied promises

Many managers make the mistake in coaching of suggesting that added effort on an employee’s part could land her a promotion or a high rating and big raise. It’s unwise to use such a promise as an incentive unless you can truly deliver on it. A broken promise can undo any improvements in the employee’s performance and cause you to lose credibility with both your staff and the employee, who will tell all how she was fooled by you.

Sometimes, when coaching, in order to leave an employee with no misunderstanding, you may have to raise the issue just to squash it.

Delivering feedback focused on attitudes

Judgmental feedback is not constructive. Suggesting that someone is argumentative or uninterested in her work is demoralizing, more likely to decrease the individual’s level of performance than otherwise. After all, attitudinal feedback gives employees little direction on how to improve performance; it suggests no specific actions they can take. Besides, such feedback is not legally defensible if it shows up on the employee’s evaluation and is used to make a decision about a raise, a promotion or, worst of all, continued employment.

Rather than tell an employee that you think he has no interest in advancement, you might note how he has turned down several training opportunities or refused to participate in some high-visibility projects.

Failing to follow up

Managers who don’t assess their employees beyond the quarterly or trimester appraisal review aren’t giving them sufficient information to help them increase their performance. Feedback is as important, maybe more so, when you delegate an assignment to an employee or train him or her to master a new skill, and it’s even more important when you empower him or her to do something. Feedback at these crucial junctures may make it unnecessary to give negative feedback at the quarterly reviews or end-of-year evaluation.


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About The Author

American Management Association is a world leader in professional development, advancing the skills of individuals to drive business success. AMA’s approach to improving performance combines experiential learning—“learning through doing”—with opportunities for ongoing professional growth at every step of one’s career journey. AMA supports the goals of individuals and organizations through a complete range of products and services, including seminars, Webcasts and podcasts, conferences, corporate and government solutions, business books and research.

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