12 Tips for Coaching Employees to Improve Performance

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published July 4, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If you're new to coaching employees or want to continue to develop your skills, there are several tips you can follow. These tips may help you improve team members' productivity, among other meaningful key performance indicators. Learning about these tips may help you integrate new practices within your coaching sessions. In this article, we discuss 12 tips for coaching employees to improve performance.

12 tips for coaching employees to improve performance

Here are 12 tips for coaching employees to improve performance:

1. Demonstrate behaviour you want to see repeated in others

You can do this by sharing positive examples and being an example yourself, telling stories about other people who have accomplished something worthwhile, and acknowledging when your team members do something well themselves. By demonstrating acknowledgeable behaviour, your team can understand that you have the competence and ability to perform their tasks and are a resource for them to get advice and ask questions.

For example, if you're leading a software development team and you ask your team to develop 100 lines of code each day, you may write 100 lines of code each day for a week to show them that you can perform that task effectively.

Related: 7 Ways to Collaborate with Your Team to Improve Productivity

2. Use questions instead of statements

When leading coaching sessions, ask questions instead of making statements. You can do this to prevent a communication barrier where people feel the need to answer your questions and don't want to admit that they don't know an answer or understand. For example, instead of saying "I can see that you have done a great job getting this project done on time yesterday", you can ask questions like "What worked well for you on previous projects? Can you tell me about one aspect that went well?". This can help them decide how to answer the question themselves and seek advice or coaching in specific areas.

3. Ask what pieces of coaching are useful

It's difficult to determine what pieces of coaching are the most useful for the other person. Instead, you can get feedback from those you coach to determine from which aspects of training they gained the most knowledge. For example, if you provided training on using a spreadsheet to record essential company information, you may seek feedback from the training participants to determine which aspects helped them the most, so you can adjust the training for future participants.

Related: A Guide to Executive Coaching: What It Is and When to Use It

4. Approve of mistakes without disapproval

Mistakes are necessary to learning and eventual success. Treat mistakes like learning opportunities and avoid chastising or humiliating those who make mistakes during coaching sessions. For example, you may address a mistake that a team member made when creating a visual design for a new project, then explain how it's always useful to get other team members to review work and that you commonly ask others to do the same.

Related: Coaching vs. Counselling (With Job Description and Salaries)

5. Give concrete, specific feedback on actions

When providing feedback, focus on specific actions and behaviours. For example, complimenting employees on doing something well is better than praising them for their personality. This way, you can inform employees on actions they can take to receive praise and focus on items in which they can actually progress and develop. For this reason, avoid phrases like "Nice attitude", "That's what I'd expect from you". Instead, use phrases such as "You did that faster than I expected".

Related: Coach vs. Mentor (With Tips on Selecting the Best Fit)

6. Make team members aware of their risky behaviour

Try to let your team know when they're taking risks, such as safety, financial, or productivity risks. For example, if an employee is risking the security of financial data by recording it in an insecure format, you may inform them so they can improve the behaviour.

Provide employees with an opportunity to take minor risks without fear of ridicule or criticism. You can do this by creating an environment where employees can take some risks while identifying the potential risks in a positive way instead of criticising behaviours leading to negative outcomes. For example, if you notice that one of your team members is willing to try something that you didn't expect, but don't know if may work, you can ask them about their motivation for attempting it rather than trying to talk them out of it.

Related: Essential Coaching Skills for Leadership (With Examples)

7. Be willing to take risks yourself

When coaching employees, be willing to take risks yourself. This way, you can see what sort of results those behaviours can yield and give advice on how others can do the same. For example, you may try a new leadership style or strategy for receiving feedback to see if you receive any new pieces of valuable information that may lead to increased productivity.

8. Help employees reach their goals

A fundamental part of coaching is to help employees reach their goals, especially when these goals are the same as yours. You can do this by creating a win-win situation. For example, if you work in sales and your goal is to sell a product at a specific price, you can inform your team members that you want to meet your personal sales quota, and if they help you do so, they receive bonuses and praise. This way, employees have an incentive to help you reach your personal goals as well as theirs.

Related: Should You Hire a Career Coach? When to Hire an Employment Counsellor

9. Be part of the solution

When coaching employees, avoid criticising them. Instead, be part of the solutions to their issues. For example, if an employee isn't able to perform at thier peak level because their overwhelmed by work, identify and eliminate that source of stress by offering them resources. For example, you can propose creating a team meeting where employees can meet with each other to find solutions to overwork issues.

As another example, if employees have a tendency to create overly complex designs for a new project, you can ask them to create more simplified designs in future projects. You can also complement their creativity by identifying how it may be useful for a future project.

10. Build trust

When employees trust their managers and coaches, they're more likely to open up and provide valuable information. This can help you identify potential issues in the workplace before they become a problem. For example, if an employee expresses concern about an upcoming project that involves many more resources than any other previous project, you can discuss the issue with the team member to determine how to prevent it from becoming a problem in the future and discuss solutions to increase the available resources.

Related: 10 Good Manager Qualities (With Tips to Raise Productivity)

11. Be consistent

When coaching employees, be consistent with your messages. This may include providing consistent goals for all employees on the same team or making the same assertions when discussing similar topics with several employees. For example, if you enact a sales goal for employees of 15 sales per week, you can stay consistent with that goal and expect each employee to reach it regardless of seniority. This consistency can help employees understand expectations and establish further trust.

12. Have a clear purpose

When coaching employees, it's crucial that you have a clear goal during your sessions so you can discuss it with the employee. This way, you can know what improvements to focus on every session and avoid discussing trivial or irrelevant topics. For example, if you want to coach employees on how to handle difficult customers, you may set a goal of finding one specific solution for each employee.

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