This paper will focus on what it takes to be a successful coach and motivator in the 21st century and the general characteristics of the coaching process for the future leaders of corporate america. We will also discuss various ways to improved performance through commitment and discuss why some coaching techniques fail to produce the desired results. All coaching is a one-to-one conversation that is, in some way, focused on performance and commitment. However, all coaching is not successful. “According to Dennis Kinlaw successful coaching is mutual, communicates respect, problem-focused and change-oriented” (p. 5).
The first phase in becoming a successful coach and motivator is a successful coaching conversation, managers should involve subordinates fully in the communications process. Successful coaching is not a didactic process – one in which the manager instructs and the employee listens. It should be a process of mutual exploration and discovery. Coaching is a process designed to make the most of what both members know. The manager”s main tasking is to ensure that both sets of information are used.
In the second phase respect is what employees experience because of what the manager does. Respect results when managers encourage employees to give opinions and feedback during meetings, provide data and to offer objections to what the manager has said.
It is easy for managers to become confused about the subject of respect for employees, especially for problem employees. “Kinlaw states that many leaders exemplify a common attitude that respect is something that people must earn, a treatment that employees deserve or do not deserve” (p. 27).
In truth, communicating respect for the employees as an individual or group is an essential aspect of coaching conversations if they are to improve performance and develop commitment to the organization. Supervisors leading a group must never lose sight of the fact that their job is to manage performance of the group and to ensure commitment to superior performance. It does not serve supervisors purpose to foster resentment, or to block the development of others. In the third phase, problem focus, “Pool states a problem is not necessarily something negative, it is only the difference between what is and what is desired to be” (p.71).
In successful coaching, managers should stay focused on what can be described objectively: plans, actions, and events. Your main objective is to fix performance, not to fix individuals. In the final phase, we often learn from the past, but we cannot alter it. Managers who are successful coaches focus on what can be changed or improved. “According to Julio Olalla, a manager should always approach a coaching session with the expectation that performance and commitment will be reinforced or improved because of the conversation.
The past should be used only to help employees to understand how to improve the future” (p.16). The purpose of coaching is not to help employees fail more effectively or despair about their shortcomings, but to find ways to help employees to perform better at their professional or competence level. The most effective and efficient way for managers to improve their coaching practices is to learn how to manage the two processes of solving people problems and improving performance.
According to Fournies, the coaching process is a five step process to redirect a subordinate”s behavior to solve a performance problem: to get the subordinate to stop doing what he shouldn”t be doing or to start doing what he should be doing (p. 135). The first step is to get agreement a problem exists, this is the most critical step in the coaching process, and usually where most managers fail in their efforts to eliminate performance problems. Managers fail here because they bypass it assuming the subordinate knows a problem exists.
David Calabria states even more difficult to believe, though true, is that subordinates may know they are doing something wrong, but they don”t know it”s a problem” (p. 75). The next step in the coaching process is to mutually discuss alternative solutions. You as the manager and the subordinate together will identify as many alternative solutions as may be necessary to solve the problem. He points out a valuable opinion when he states “because you are dealing with behavior, it is necessary to specify those changes in behavior that are needed to influence the outcome or result” (p. 75).
He states “unfortunately, we have many workers who try harder, but are still doing the wrong thing”.That is, they are doing more of something, but what they are doing will not result in solving the problem. “Unless you specify what trying harder is, the only result you may achieve is people walking around with clenched fists, tight buttocks, and grinding teeth. It will certainly give them a feeling of trying harder, but they will not be doing anything to change the outcome” (p. 76). The next step is to gain mutual agreement on which alternatives will be acted upon to solve the problem.
Calabria states “a common practice managers follow in their problem-solving efforts is to combine the selection of alternatives with the listing or discovery of alternatives, these are two clearly separate functions; combine them inhibits the optimum achievement of either” (p. 77).
You should not only mutually agree on which alternatives will be acted upon, but should also specify when the action will take place. You must identify what will be done and when. He states an appropriate closing response would be to thank the subordinate for agreeing to solve the problem, and to specify a time when you will meet again (p. 8). The next step in the coaching process is to follow up to insure that agreed upon action has been taken. It never ceases to amaze me that naval officers will take the time to chew on subordinates about a problem, but will not take the time to insure the agreed upon action has been taken. What usually happens is that the manager is overwhelmed by the subordinate”s promise to change.
The subordinate has confessed his mistakes and expressed the right amount of humility and concern; therefore, the manager assumes the change will take place.This sound reasonable too most because we are not dealing with children; we have two mature (sometimes educated) and experienced people dealing on a face-to-face basis. We have to assume at least in the military there is still some honor and integrity left in the world, so we take the subordinate at face value and assume that what is expected to happen will somehow magical occur. Too often we discover as managers, one month down the road, things are just as bad as they were in spite of the subordinate”s promises.
Cote and Trudel point out sometimes the subordinate does change initially and, because the boss does not follow up, there is no recognition of this change and, therefore, no reinforcement to support the change. So the subordinate or group returns to the inappropriate behavior (p. 4).
In coaching when you follow up and observe that a problem individual has improved, you must recognize that improvements by saying something like, “I see you have corrected that problem we discussed, and I really appreciate your efforts on that. If you continue your efforts, pretty soon it will go away all together, keep up the good work”.
The last step in the coaching process is “recognize any achievement when it occurs”, has the greatest potential to sustain improvements in performance. Roberta Maynard sees the timeliness of your recognition and rewards is of critical importance to its influence on sustaining improvement. “The sooner recognition (reinforcement) occurs after the actual performance achievement, the greater is its influence. The longer the period of time between the actual performance and the occurrence of the reinforcement, the less influence it has” (p. 11).
If someone corrects a performance problem today it is more effective for you to tell him about it this week, than to give him/her a raise six months from now and tell them at that time how much you appreciated it. If you do not recognize a subordinate”s change from unsatisfactory to satisfactory performance, you will not sustain the change; and you will have wasted your time and energy. Maynard states only when you have achieved a sustained change, have you completed the coaching process. “Two-thirds of the people of the world go to bed starving every night and that”s a crying shame, but 99. percent of the population goes to bed every night starving for recognition, it”s such a simple thing to give” (Fournies, p. 2). If one of a manager”s primary tasks is to create commitment and focus in employees, and then the manager must have a clear idea of just what commitment is and what contributes to it.
“Kinlaw states the four supports of commitment are clarity about goals and values, employee competencies that allow success, degree of influence that employees have and the expressed appreciation given to employees or groups for their contributions” (p. 0). Formal and strategic planning has become a common activity in most organizations. “According to William Lucas strategic planning does as least two things: It clarifies what the organization intends to be and it clarifies what the organization intends to be like” (p. 14). For group members to have commitment to a project the group must have a focus. Values bring clarity if they are real.
Managers cannot talk about quality and then, every time there is a crunch, reinforce the fact that schedules and quotas are the true drivers.
Lucas states commitment is evidenced in the purposeful focused behavior of employees who are willing to make sacrifices in order to ensure quality work or success. This focus can be created only if manager”s build clarify about their work group”s purpose and its value (p. 15). Coaching as a one-to-one interaction between managers and employees, is a primary strategy for building clarity toward the future. People develop commitment toward what they believe they can do well. People or groups do not like to fail.
They will try to avoid the things that they think they cannot do.
If managers want commitment they must make sure that employees have the ability and willingness to be successful in their jobs. There are two elements that managers must address in building employee competence (Olalla and Echeverria, p. 17). First they must ensure that their employees have the knowledge, skills, and experience to perform their tasks, and they must ensure that their employees have the confidence to perform their tasks. My work with the government has convinced me that managers do not always place improving the competencies of their subordinates high on their list of priorities or responsibilities.
Experience has shown me that most leaders or managers even object to the idea that they are responsible for developing employees: “They say such things as: It”s their responsibility to develop themselves”; nobody made it easy for me, so why should it be easy for them.
No one can seriously quarrel with the idea that individuals have final responsibility to develop themselves. But not to see the development of people as a fundamental management responsibility is shortsighted and foolish (McNerney, p. 2).
Saul Gellerman states each of us feels a great deal more committed, willing to do our best, when we are tasked with jobs that we know we can do well or that we know we can learn to do well (p. 128). Saul also states managers who help employees to increase their knowledge, skill, and experience also are building employee commitment – the key to sustained, superior performance (p. 130).
Influence is the third part of commitment. Employees do not perform nearly as well when they are consistently denied any input in their jobs and are expected to follow unquestionably the decisions of their leaders. Managers who deny employees any influence get the end result they deserve. These results range from boredom to passive resistance or even sabotage” (Fournies, p. 14). Many employees end up doing what they are told to do, but they do it exactly and they do no more. Extending influence to employees can happen in a number of ways.
It can happen through “talk to the boss” programs or it can take the shape of formal employee suggestion programs or may be extended through the informal and ongoing conversations that managers have with individuals or groups.