Supervisors should provide ongoing feedback to employees and meet individually with them 3 times a year to coach them on performance, says Trevor Throness, author of The Power of People Skills.
Throness identifies two main obstacles to conducting effective training sessions: (1) having a conversation about performance in the first place, and (2) overcoming a reluctance to share negative feedback.
Some supervisors avoid having “honest” conversations about performance with employees because they do not like confrontation and are concerned about harming working relationships, he says. However, through training, supervisors can learn how to share negative feedback and gain a better appreciation for the value that coaching brings to the organization as a retention tool (e.g., keeping employees engaged, addressing problems with poor performers that might otherwise drive away top employees).
Throness says it is important for supervisors to know what types of questions to ask employees during coaching sessions. In addition, he emphasizes the importance of changing supervisors’ mind-sets about coaching. For example, they should see themselves as “career advocates” for employees and demonstrate that they care about employees’ success. “Unless someone believes you’re in their corner, they can’t hear anything you have to say.”
Supervisors can position themselves in this way, he says, by asking the following types of questions during coaching sessions: “What is going well? What could be going better from your perspective? How are you developing your career?” Throness also recommends having supervisors ask employees to evaluate their own productivity, attitude, accuracy, etc., and having the supervisors evaluate employees on the same attributes.
Supervisors, Throness says, should then review the next steps (i.e., What did the employee commit to doing during the coaching session? or What type of training did the supervisor pledge to seek out for the employee?). He recommends ending each coaching session with an open-ended question, such as, “Anything I should know?” That identifies issues that the organization can be proactive about, such as addressing a whistleblower complaint or finding a better role for the employee internally.