Processes and procedures seem to be lacking, little details
continue to get missed or a project just wasn’t done the way you expected. When coaching an employee who seems to be
struggling, effective communication on how to improve can be challenging. You might find yourself focusing too much on
the employee’s weaknesses and not valuing their strengths. This can lead to an
unstable working relationship and can leave your employee questioning their
abilities without having the confidence to improve.
Coaching on weaknesses can be difficult for managers.
However, if done correctly, the relationship between the manager and employee
will grow and strengthen the working relationship. Managers must clearly communicate their
expectations, be direct and have specific when coaching opportunities arise.
Start with the positives.
What are your employee’s strengths? What do you value about their skill
set? What strengths does your employee
have that you don’t? Next, what areas
can your employee improve upon? Do you
have specific examples that you can use as a coaching exercise? Then, properly communicate your expectations
for that employee in their role.
Capitalize on strengths.
Is your employee’s "weakness” truly a weakness or just a difference in
expectations? Once this is identified, most situations can be manicured and
corrected. However, being direct and
specific is crucial to the process. Sugarcoating and giving vague examples will
only create additional frustration. As
always, honesty is the best policy. Author Steven Gaffney defines honesty as,” in saying what needs to be said. I think most people think their honest but the
truth is, we all lie: we withhold information.”
Tips for Positive Communication
- Clearly define and communicate expectations.
Make no assumptions. If appropriate, develop a plan in writing with the
- Increase trust by being honest and open.
- Understand your employee’s communication style.
The Kolbe Index is a great tool to start.
- Focus on progress, not mistakes.
- Allow the employee to ask questions of
Tips to Avoid Negative Communication
- Don’t let emotions drive your communication.
- Give yourself time to reflect before you begin
- Avoid public situations to engage in coaching
sessions. Privacy is the best policy.
- Don’t be vague when describing areas for
improvement. Specifics and examples are a must.
- Don’t delay coaching conversations to only
happen at quarterly and/or annual reviews.
Take Action Now
As a manager, it is your responsibility to lead the
development of a solid working relationship with your employee. Being clear, open and honest about strengths
and weaknesses is crucial to the relationship. Both sides should develop
respect and trust for one another during the process. Do you have an employee
that has a coaching opportunity? Reflect for 5 minutes on the situation and
think about how you can apply some of the tips in this article to begin the