Communication Tip: Coaching to Improve Performance

If an employee, child, or someone else whose performance you depend on isn’t working up to your expectations, use coaching to identify the problems and motivate the other person to improve.

Coaching is a three-step process: Researching the problem, which you do before you meet with the person, having the coaching session, and then following up to make sure that improvement is made.

Before You Meet with the Other Person

Before you coach the other person, research and determine the following:

  • Why isn’t the other person working to your expectations? Is it because they didn’t have adequate training? Do they lack the time, tools, and resources to do the job? Are they unmotivated because of lack of support, unclear direction, or lack of appreciation?
  • What needs to be done to correct the problem? Does the other person not know what is expected of them? What skills does the person need to gain to do the job? What obstacles need to be removed? What realistically can be done?
  • Can the person do the job if he or she wanted to? If the person isn’t a good fit for the job, he or she might need to do something else.

Coach the Person

When you are ready to meet with the other person, conduct the coaching session as follows:

  1. Pick a private place where you won’t be disturbed.
  2. Describe specifically the reason for the discussion, expressing your concern about the problem and how it affects you and others.
  3. Give the other person a chance to respond. The other person might apologize or rebut what you said. Listen attentively.
  4. Seek the person’s opinion on ways to improve performance.
  5. Discuss solutions.
  6. Agree on a solution and action plan.
  7. Follow up.
  8. Praise positive results.


Here are some tips to use in the course of the coaching process:

  • Think win-win. Your goal is to solve the performance problem and encourage the other person to grow.
  • Address the behavior, not the person.
  • Maintain a friendly, supportive, and positive tone.
  • Be direct, specific, and non-punishing.
  • Use “I” statements, as in “I’m concerned that…”
  • Use open-ended questions to encourage discussion.
  • Avoid language, tone, and gestures that are emotional or condescending.
  • Stick to the issue. Do not wander off on other subjects.
  • Give yourself and the other person enough time to work out a solution.

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