How-To Coaching Advice for Managers

Boss coaching employee
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Being a manager is no easy task. You have to coach an entire team made up of individual members, each with their own unique strengths and weaknesses. To get the best performance out of your team as a whole, you need to coach each member of your team individually. Even if two team members have the same weakness, you will need to address them differently and each will react differently to your guidance. While you want to be fair as you deal with all your employees, it's simply impossible to treat everyone the same way. 

Coach up Front 

Make sure your employees are properly trained before they start a job. For example, before you put someone on the phones as a customer service representative, make sure they know how to handle the most common calls as well as the occasional difficult calls. Before you let a machine operator produce a finished piece of clothing for sale, make sure they know how to operate all aspects of the machine as well as what you expect of them.

In situations like these, start by letting people practice. Let the telephone representative listen to a seasoned rep and once they're comfortable, let them answer a few calls on their own while you (or someone else) observes them. Give the machine operator the simplest parts of the product they'll be responsible for first and once they've mastered this work let them move on to the more difficult parts. It's during these training sessions that your coaching (and training) begins.

As you coach employees during the training period, help them with the following:

What is expected of them: For example, you don't expect them to take as many calls as the senior representative, but you do expect them to handle a certain amount of calls every day. Be specific and give them an exact number. Also, let them know you expect their call volume to grow as their comfort level grows. 

Common mistakes: Let the team member know the kinds of mistakes people on the team usually make, why, and how they can avoid making the same mistakes.

Tips and tricks: Share some of the things you've learned that will help them learn the best way to do the job. For instance, if you keep your the blank parts of the product you're producing to the left of the operating machine (for a right-handed operator) you can carefully place the finished part on the tray for the next station with your right hand, while using your left hand to slide the next part toward the machine. This simple tip (and piece of advice) streamlines the process.

Ongoing Coaching

After your team member has completed their training that doesn't mean your coaching ends. Continue to share things that can help them get better and remind them to avoid things slowing them down or hampering the quality of their work. Remember, coaching has a goal. Ultimately, you want the performance level of your team to improve, and that's accomplished one person at a time. 

Coaching After An Event

Despite your best efforts, mistakes happen. A telephone representative will give a customer the wrong answer that causes them to threaten a lawsuit. When this happens, your first step is to fix the problem from a corporate perspective and secondly, coach the individual, so the mistake doesn't happen again. You may need to remind them of the correct procedure or answer. The important thing is to stay positive and be supportive because we all make mistakes.

However, if this isn't the first time they've made this mistake you need to address that with them as well. Think of their mistake as a teaching moment and make sure they understand what went wrong and how to avoid it in the future. Most of all, be careful of demotivating them. After any coaching session, you want your employees eager to do better, not cowering at their desk out of fear.

Bottom Line

Coaching is a very powerful tool a manager can use to improve the performance of their team. You coach each person on the team as an individual, but also as a member of the team. Coach them ahead of time, so they are prepared; coach them as time goes on, so they continue to improve. And coach them when they make a mistake. Be positive and motivating and they will improve the team's performance by improving their own performance.