Bill goes into his boss’s office to receive feedback on his annual appraisal. He learns that he is meeting expectations, and, subsequently, he is excited to shift his focus to further developing his plan. He is disappointed to learn that performance management only involves determining what he will deliver next year and not at how he can grow in order to expand his capacity to perform better. He feels as though he is falling behind his peers who focus on both performance and development.
I teach a class on managing employee performance and coaching employees that proposes we shift from emphasis on managing performance to emphasis on coaching employees. The Gallup Q12 Meta Analysis in 2013 showed that organizations with engaged employees are 22% more profitable. Employees are more engaged when they feel as though the organization cares about them and their individual development.
Performance management involves setting employee and organizational goals into alignment and providing feedback about performance within those goals. When supervisors connect employee skills with employee goals, employees become more engaged, and the organization benefits. Furthermore, performance management includes identifying the top performers to succeed important roles and identifying the lower performers to receive assistance. The person giving feedback requires proficient skills in evaluating and motivating employees. A strong relationship between manager and employee is necessary when providing effective feedback – this relationship should be one where the employee feels safe receiving constructive criticism and believes that, by making the requested changes, he or she will be rewarded in the future.
To meet stated objectives effectively, improving performance is needed. After employees are able to meet their objectives, it is important to then focus on meeting new goals to continue building employee capacity. At this point, coaching becomes fundamental to the process.
Coaching helps employees achieve their developmental goals beyond their mere ability to perform the job. A coach helps foster an employee’s developmental goals which are typically in sync with organizational goals. Development is vital in order to advance to the next level within an organization. It is also necessary when building skills like executive presence or resilience. The coach can be an employee’s manager or someone in a different reporting line or work group. It is important that the coach and coachee have a strong relationship of trust and respect.
The distinction between performance management and coaching may appear to be one of semantics, but it is nevertheless important. It is important for leaders and managers to have BOTH skills and to know when each skill is best used. When employees are performing poorly, the manager must determine the cause, which is often either a result of a training deficiency or a motivation/engagement gap. Once a manager identifies the cause of the underperformance in an employee he or she can create an improvement plan to help the employee meet the stated goals.
We prepare managers and leaders to
- Teach the basics of employee engagement – learn the basics of what engages and disengages people.
- Teach performance management basics – understand how the organization’s performance management system is designed. Performance management can have legal and financial implications, so it is important to understand the impact of the actions surrounding this system.
- Teach/practice giving and receiving feedback – PRACTICE (capitalized to emphasize skills are developed through ongoing practice) giving and receiving feedback with difficult employees.
- Teach coaching basics – practice coaching conversations. Coaching conversations have different objectives, content, and tones. Managers who are good at performance feedback still need to build coaching skills.
- Teach/practice coaching – PRACTICE coaching employees who are focused on growth.
For many organizations, employees are the biggest driver of success and, consequently, failure. To outperform competition, investing in employee engagement and development is crucial. If focus on performance management and coaching is mediocre or an afterthought, the ability to deliver positive end results will likely suffer.
To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills.
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