Coaching is, in many ways, a negotiation. And, just like a negotiation session, the better you prepare, the better your chances of obtaining a favorable outcome. Consider the following questions before you begin a coaching discussion. Your answers will provide a framework for conducting a win/win interaction.

  1. What is the problem? Identify the specific problem. Exactly what is happening that shouldn’t be or what should be happening that isn’t? Some typical problems may include (a) coming in late, (b) excessive absences, (c) sales down, (d) customer complaints, or (e) incomplete reports. Make sure you define the problem in specific “behavioral” terms. Remember, a bad attitude is not a specific behavioral problem. However, ignoring customers or not providing follow-up within 24 hours is.
  2. What is the cause of the problem? You may not know for sure what the cause of the problem is until you have the coaching discussion. However, you can begin to identify possible causes. For example, sales may be down because (a) the salesperson is no longer calling on new accounts or (b) maybe existing accounts are not being asked about additional services that may be needed. A clear understanding of the cause of the problem will speed up the problem-solving process and will allow for realistic and practical solutions.
  3. Is the employee capable? Is the employee physically and mentally able to do the job? Does he or she have the skills, knowledge, and abilities to complete the job or task successfully? If the answer is “no,” then education or training may be needed to prepare the employee properly.
  4. Does the employee know right from wrong? The most common reason employees do not know that they are doing something wrong is because they think they are doing it right. Some supervisors have a bad habit of only providing feedback in severe instances when the employee has demonstrated inappropriate behavior. The other times, when the employee is plodding along on the path of mediocrity, the supervisor says nothing. Many employees think that mediocre performance is good enough because no one has ever told them differently.
  5. Are there effective reinforcement guidelines? A classic example of how an employee could be punished for performance is when a worker in a production facility works faster than the rest of the employees, and as a consequence, is given more work to do. The employees who take their time and work slowly are rewarded by having more work taken away from them. Supervisors experience this phenomenon every day.

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