Performance Management vs. Coaching

Times have changed.  No longer can we enjoy the beauty of a manager’s only responsibilities to be managing her people.  With lean times, the manager is expected to be not only the person that manages all the work from their superior, and delegates it out, but also be the ‘project manager’ of their own work that also contributes to the end result.  Unfortunately, humans don’t like to let others down, so they focus on the project rather than the people.

This week I have some tips for the manager, whom I feel great empathy for- it isn’t easy.

  • Don’t confuse coaching with performance management
    • Coaching is open ended, without an agenda.  If you have feedback to share with the employee, it isn’t a ‘coaching moment’.  This is a bit confusing as many organizations have adopted the vernacular of “you need to coach them on that” (I’ve corrected that only about 1,000 times) coaching is not an admonition. 
    • When there is feedback from yourself or others, it should be shared not as gospel- there are always two sides- but as an opportunity.  Can they agree with the feedback?  What is the expectation?  Share the feedback, set the expectation of what you want to see and set a deadline, then follow up. FOLLOW UP.  This is the easiest piece to miss, but the most important.  They need to know they are being held accountable.    Don’t let two minutes of being uncomfortable drive you into hours of dread later- probably in a performance review!   Keep these notes (and all meeting notes with the employee) in your employee’s folder for reference when it comes time to write the performance evaluation. 
  • You can shift the conversation to coaching after delivering the feedback, expectation and deadline
    • When it comes to how they will conform to the expectation of performance, ask if they would like to brainstorm ways to achieve that plan, what seems like the best option, and how will they know they are achieving that target.  This is a great time to coach, because the employee is much more likely to take ownership of the solution and make it a long-term fix, rather than a submission under duress, or threat of ‘warning’.
  • When you see improvement, acknowledge- early and often
    • It’s not easy to change, so when you see the employee making changes to improve upon the feedback delivered be sure to say so.  Give them confidence to keep striving and improving.

In short, when you have to deliver a message, give feedback, be directive- that’s the time to wear the manager hat and ‘manage’.  When the options are flexible, there is room for innovation and creativity and you want the employee to own the solution – try coaching.

Have a great week- Happy Leading!