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Coaching Counseling and Mentoring

Page history last edited by Chris Yeh 9 years, 1 month ago

How to Choose & Use the Right Technique to Boost Employee Performance

by Florence M. Stone



Coaching: The task of continually developing employees so that they do their jobs well.  This includes making good hires to begin with.

Counseling: Informing employees who are working ineffectively and helping them make necessary improvements.

Mentoring: Coaching your best performers on their career development.



  • Coaching is the process by which individuals gain the skills, abilities, and knowledge they need to develop themselves professionally and become more effective in their jobs.
  • 90% of US companies offer some form of coaching to top executive
  • Successful coaching results in the following:
    • Employees who are oriented to corporate values and business intent and strategies
    • Employees who are clear about your expectations for their performance and priorities
    • Employees who accept responsibility for their performance and are motivated to exceed their current performance
  • The 5 Principles of Coaching
    1. Ability to Gather Information
    2. Ability to Listen to Others. The best coaches practice empathetic listening
    3. Awareness of What's Happening Around You
    4. Ability to Instruct Employees
    5. Ability to Give Feedback
  • The Duties of a Coach (beyond training)
    • Acting as a role model
    • Hiring the best employees
    • Creating a work culture in which employees have reason to be motivated
      • Tip: Separate the behavior from the person. You don't want your people to feel attacked. 
    • Clarifying expectations (both individual and corporate). Within a week of beginning a job, an employee should have met with you to agree on three to five (and no more than five) goals to work toward.
    • Providing regular feedback on your employees' behaviors that will put them on the right performance track and keep them there.
    • Applying performance evaluation not just to determine compensation, but as a developmental aid
      • Tip: Stretch goals do not have to be part of the formal compensation process. To develop stretch goals:
        • Involve the employee
        • Write down your development plan 
    • Providing the training and resources employees need to improve their performance
      • Tip: Determine if your employees possess the competencies to meet the expectations of their jobs.  Break down each competency into specific behaviors and observe which staff members can and cannot do.  Spell out the means for developing any missing skill or knowledge. 
    • Praising and reinforcing positive performence 
      • Good praise is sincere, concise, and specific. It is delivered in a manner that communicates enthusiasm for the work done or appreciation of the employee's extra effort. 
  • Motivation questions
    • What really matters to you?
    • How do you think you can be more valuable to the organization?
    • What would make you happy professionally?  Personally?
    • Do you think your professional goals are ambitious enough?
    • If you had the choice of any career or position within the organization, including mine, what would you want?
    • What accomplishments would build your self-confidence or make you feel better about yourself?
  • Making a Goal a Reality
    1. Clarify the nature of the training
    2. Identify the goals or outcomes to be reached
    3. Facilitate the task
    4. Set limitations (e.g. what impact can the training be allowed to have on regular work)
    5. Empower the employee (e.g. provide the learning opportunities)
    6. Backtrack (i.e. have the employee summarize and explain the plan)
    7. Follow up
  • Explain why you're meeting
    • Given the uncertainty of job security today, many employees worry that their manager is either unhappy with their work or worse, looking for a reason to justify termination. It's important for a manager to explain the importance of coaching to the employee.
  • Coaching Traps and Problems
    • Hiring the wrong people
    • Allowing disorientation to continue (for new employees)
    • Making implied promises
    • Changing management styles when coaching doesn't work
      • Good managers practice situational management.  But some guidelines are always the same: open and honest communication, mutual respect, recognition for outstanding performance, shared responsibility for decisions and implementation
    • Undermining employees' self-esteem
      • Be specific; don't use "always" and "never"
    • Focusing on attitudes
      • Attitudinal feedback gives employees little direction to improve performance, and suggests no specific actions.  Again, be specific about behaviors and consequences.
    • Failing to follow up
      • You should follow up an hour later, at the end of the day, and the following week
    • Placing the blame
      • Always start by assuming that the communication on your part as manager was inadequate
    • Ignoring the problem
    • Not recognizing improvement
    • Failing to give direction
      • Without information on department goals, your staff won't have a focus
    • Making unrealistic demands
    • Being impatient 



  • Apply "Tough Love"
    1. The goal is to remedy poor performance, not to demean a person. Annoyance is directed at the work and not at the employee.
    2. It is based on a genuine desire to see the individual do better. You're not destroying another person's career by bringing up performance faults; you're actually helping the individual
    3. It seeks to achieve agreement with the problem performer and help you build together an action plan to turn the employee's performance around.
  • Counseling = 1:1 meetings with the problem employee in which your purpose is to get the employee the acknowledge the difference between actual and expected performance, identify the source of the problem, and develop an action plan to bring performance up to expectations.
  • The Communications Process
    1. Communicate openly, directly, and honestly
    2. Practice active listening
    3. Probe and question.  Ask open-ended questions to identify possible causes, and follow up with closed-ended questions to confirm your conclusions.
  • The Four Step Performance Counseling Process
    1. Verbal Counseling
    2. A Written Warning
    3. Demotion or Transfer
    4. Termination
  • The Five Goals of a Counseling Interview
    1. Win the employee's agreement that there is a need for change
      1. Do your homework. Know and document how often the problem occurs and the consequences on the person's work, his co-workers, and the department as a whole.
        1. If necessary, prepare a list of questions in advance
      2. One key technique is to listen, rather than talking. The employee should do 80% of the talking.
      3. Paraphrase to show that you are truly listening
    2. Identify the cause of the problem 
    3. Agree on the specific actions that they employee will take to improve his or her performance
      1. "I'll try" is not enough. Agree on specific actions.
      2. Identify several alternatives and discuss each of them before making a final decision
      3. Ask for behavioral change, not attitudinal change
    4. Follow up regularly with the employee to ensure that he or she is reaching the goals you both have set
    5. Recognize the employee's accomplishments to reinforce continued correct behavior
  • Common situations that could be the cause of problems
    • Stress (inside or outside of work)
    • Poor time or task management
    • Oversupervision or Undersupervision
    • Interpersonal conflicts
    • Breach of promise
    • Personal problems
  • If you need to break the bad news, be empathetic, but don't say "I'm sorry."  You've done nothing wrong.
  • Counseling attitude problems
    • Rather than discussing attitude, discuss the actual and concrete negative consequences.
      • Document the person's behavior
      • Narrow the issue to the specific problem or concern
      • Record the frequency of the misconduct and its concrete impact
      • Determine whether the individual has a logical reason for the behavior
      • Describe the behaviors you don't want, and explain the behavior you want instead
    • How to deal with specific types of people
      • Naysayers: Ignore them or challenge them to come up with a solution rather than simply criticizing others' plans
      • Worrywarts: Address their fears openly and honestly
      • Jokesters: Don't laugh, and describe situations and subjects that are off-limit
      • Know-it-alls: Minimize their participation if it is harmful; look for ways to combine their good ideas with those of other team members
      • "No" people: Ask them to research the subject and come up with a better idea
      • Whiners: Neither agree nor disagree with the complaints; try to get specific and identify real problems
  • Counseling Traps and Pitfalls
    • Acceptance of poor performance
    • Failure to get the message through
    • Disagreement about the existence of a problem
    • Disagreement over standards
    • The ADA excuse
      • You are required to make reasonable accommodation, but you also have a right to see a doctor's note or to have an exam performed
    • The emotion trap
      • Don't let fear of an emotional reaction cause you to ignore the problem or be sidetracked from the counseling process
    • Misunderstanding your role
      • You are not a psychiatrist; your job is to get the employee to do their job fully and well
    • Preconceived notions
      • Enter the session with possibilities, not conclusions
    • Poor counseling preparation
    • Failure to consult HR
    • Dominating the discussion (80/20; you're the 20)
    • Shifting attention from the employee's performance problem to your problems or feelings
    • Overempathizing
    • Dictating what an employee should do
    • Moving too quickly into problem-solving without first discussing the nature of the problem
  • Put your agreements in writing and follow through
  • Post-termination pitfalls
    • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act
    • The Age Discrimination in Employment Act
      • Protects employees who are 40 or older
    • The Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment Assistance Act
      • Affects companies with government contracts > $10,000
    • The Americans with Disabilities Act
    • Remember, you have to provide reasonable accommodation, but if the individual does not do his job, you can still terminate the employee
  • Things that leave you vulnerable to unfair termination charges
    1. Failure to adhere to corporate procedures
    2. Non-job-related standards or unrealistic expectations
    3. Inconsistency in the application of standards
    4. Poor documentation
      1. Keep incident reports that document specific events, the actions taken by the employee, the results, and the consequences
      2. Keep progress reports that evaluate the employee's problems and successes
      3. Document all counseling sessions, describing the behavior that prompted the meeting, the decisions reached, and the date for follow-up
      4. Give a copy of all counseling reports to the employee and place a copy in his personnel file. Should no improvement occur, issue a warning memo that describes the performance problem, past discussions about performance, the actions you expect from the employee, and the time frame by which an improvement must be evident



  • The Four-fold Purpose of a Mentor
    1. Role Model
    2. Coach
    3. Broker
      1. Draw on favors owed you to get the additional information or resources that the mentee needs
    4. Advocate
      1. This includes recommending them to another company if no appropriate opportunity exists in your organization; this demonstrates to other top performers that you are a true ally
  • The 10 Benefits of Mentoring
    • Faster learning curves
    • Increased communication of corporate values
    • Reduced turnover
    • Increased loyalty
    • Improved 1:1 communications and a sense of team within your work group
    • Increased employee productivity
    • More time for yourself
    • Additional corporate information
    • Creation of an innovative environment
    • Allies for the future
  • Mentors should take the initiative, not just wait to be asked
  • Mentors commit to meeting 1-2 times per month
  • Characteristics of an excellent mentee
    • Track record of success
    • Demonstrated intelligence and initiative at previous jobs
    • Loyal to the organization and committed to its values
    • Desire to achieve results
    • Enjoys challenges and willingly accepts greater responsibility
    • Takes responsibility for her own career advancement and growth
    • Values feedback even if it isn't positive; doesn't repeat mistakes
    • Welcomes the mentor's help in identifying deficiencies and setting developmental goals 
  • Characteristics of an excellent mentor
    • Strong interpersonal skills
    • Contacts inside and outside the company; influence within the company
    • Recognizes others' accomplishments
    • An excellent supervisor
    • Knows her field
    • Accepts the risk that comes with mentoring
    • Willing to help another advance in the organization
  • To assess fit, fill out two columns; one for what you are willing to invest, and two for what the mentee needs
  • Networking
    • Develop a 25-second infomercial about yourself
    • Do your research
    • Introduce yourself to the speaker
    • Have a list of "get to know you" questions
    • Listen to determine how you can help the other party
    • Demonstrate your trustworthiness
    • Network within your organization
  • Advice versus Feedback
    • A secret to getting someone to really listen is to make clear to the mentee that he or she would have discovered and addressed the problem without your help
    • Consider how you would give advice to a friend 
    • You must have trust and mutual respect
    • Mentors should not solve problems for mentees; rather they should use statements and questions to help their mentees think them through and come to reasonable solutions
  • Ask your mentee to recall one or two moments in the near past that were especially satisfying
  • Development goals should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely (e.g. scheduled)
  • Counseling a mentee
    • Win the mentee's agreement that there is a need for change
    • Agree on specific actions the mentee will take to correct the mistake or problem behavior
  • "I" Messages (a 3-part process)
    1. A neutral description of what you perceive the mentee intends to do
    2. A statement of the possible negative effects on the mentee or other people
    3. The feelings or emotions you have about the mentee's plan
  • E-Mentoring
    • Building the relationship
    • Setting clear expectations
    • Monitoring the results
    • Providing feedback
  • Mentoring traps
    • Mentors can and should end the relationship if the mentee has outgrown them
    • If the mentee becomes dependent on the mentor, he won't develop his own skills and network
    • Personality conflicts
    • Cross-gender mentoring
      • These relationships are often misunderstood; you need to be prepared to deal with rumors
    • Mentoring a subordinate of one of your direct reports
      • Discuss the issue with direct report up front and make sure both your expectations are clear
    • Expectations of perfection
    • Communication or stylistic managerial weakness
    • Unrealistic development goals
  • 10 Questions to Identify Problems as they Occur
    1. Are we addressing your needs?
    2. Do you feel a sense of satisfaction from our ongoing meetings?
    3. Do you have expectations that are not being met?
    4. What could be done to improve our conversations?
    5. Do you feel that we are spending more time together than you now need?
    6. Are there some special issues that we should put on the table and address?
    7. Do you see the same need for my help as you did originally?
    8. If we have achieved our initial goals, what would be the next goals?
    9. Am I still the person to help you reach your next level of accomplishments?
    10. Is there someone else within the organization who would be a more appropriate mentor at this stage in your development? 

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