Focus on Coaching to Improve Team Performance

Manager coaching team

To significantly improve team performance, coaching offers a new role for today’s managers. Good coaching requires day to day engagement with employees to give assistance as needed.

Few managers do this well. Behaviorists Evert and Selman have over 15 years of study about organizational effectiveness. They argue that, “a management paradigm based on coaching can readily out-perform a management paradigm based on control.” Likewise, with many new technologies and the emphasis on data, coaching becomes a difference maker by focusing on people.

Coaching Team Performance Gains

Focus on Coaching to Improve Team PerformanceAuthor Kirkpatrick suggested that coaching improves job performance in two ways. Firstly, coaching takes place as the need arises. It helps cement the relationship between employees and supervisors. Secondly, a coaching manager actually helps an employee apply improvement plans developed during the coaching sessions. The benefits of developing coaching relationships have been shown on the bottom-line for years. Executives like coaching because they are actively involved in the follow-through for training or other projects. They can see the effectiveness of their coaching meetings. As well as see productivity improvement through action steps. In addition, they can delegate more of their responsibilities.

Feedback is the Breakfast of Champions

Good coaching zeros in on employees’ output, attitudes, and professional development. This kind of commitment to coaching can dramatically increase results from 48-212%. According to educational psychologist Richard Lookatch, good coaching requires follow-up. This means sustained feedback and consequences for desired activities. Also, Lookatch’s research shows that when feedback and performance consequences are eliminated too quickly, the desired behavior decreases as well. This happens all too often at work. Then, team performance slips.

Coaching with proper training, observation, and review can help overcome this decrease in desired behaviors. Consequently, it has to become a regular process for each person on a team. Most importantly, coaching is for everyone not just something you do for a poor performer. Schelling’s research defines good coaching as outlined below. It helps managers accomplish faster more outstanding productivity gains. As Dr. Ken Blanchard said, “Feedback is the breakfast of champions.”

Coaching Steps to Improve Team Performance

Good coaching can improve performance (research by Orth, Wilkenson, Benfari, and Stowell). One of the most important elements in this process is clearly defining what good coaching is or is not. Unfortunately, most managers have only vague idea about what creates good coaching. Therefore, they tend to go through the motions of coaching. Managers need to understand the behaviors that define successful coaching. These include:

  • Build a trusting and friendly relationship
  • Communicate clear expectations and goals
  • Focus on high standards and results
  • Observe team members performance
  • Meet regularly, ask questions and listen
  • Consider all relevant information when reviewing performance
  • Provide feedback and guidance, help employees become self-directed
  • Know the team member’s motivations and devise self-development plans
  • Recognize and reward progress and high performance
  • Provide consistent and relevant training

Pulling It All Together

As a result, Gerber is correct in identifying coaching as difficult to perform. And, perhaps, “the biggest paradigm shift” for managers who want to achieve great results. Poor coaches tend to short circuit the above steps. Likewise, they are inconsistent in applying all of these actions with each employee. Most are poor listeners, aloof and not available to help very often. Team performance suffers as a result.

However, through study and training managers can learn the behaviors of successful coaches. Above all, they can avoid those of poor coaches, too. They will accelerate their effectiveness. Likewise, they will more often increase their team performance while exceeding company goals. Author John Popovich declares, “As their coach, your job is to set the bar high, inspire them to reach this bar, encourage them, and most of all, guide them in the best possible manner and in the most supportive environment.”

About the Author

Rick Conlow is CEO & Senior Partner of WCW Partners, a performance improvement company. Based in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota, WCW works with clients in a variety of industries worldwide to help them excel in sales, service and leadership, facilitating business growth and vitality. Rick is author of Excellence in Management, Excellence in Supervision and Returning to Learning.

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