A Manager’s Nine-Step Approach to Coaching

Nationals v Braves, 2012
High-Visibility Coaching

Conflict-averse supervisors know that holding others accountable is a difficult part of their job. When someone isn’t doing their work as expected, it’s your job to provide the guidance to get them back on track. Ignoring the problem just makes it worse.

If you find yourself supervising others who aren’t performing as expected and are out of ideas on what to do next, then try the 9-step coaching analysis process offered by Ferdinand F. Fournies, consultant and author of the book, Coaching for Improved Work Performance, first published in 1978.

I’ve been a supervisor for more than 10 years, and have participated in many hours of supervision and leadership training programs, and yet it didn’t even occur to me that there might be useful steps out there for working through a performance problem other than motivation theories. I learned about these nine steps while learning about human resource development theory and practices.

Here’s the quick version of the nine steps:

  1. Identify the unsatisfactory employee performance.
  2. Is it worth your time and effort to address?
  3. Do subordinates know that their performance is not satisfactory?
  4. Do subordinates know what is supposed to be done?
  5. Are there obstacles beyond the employee’s control?
  6. Does the subordinate know how to do what must be done?
  7. Does a negative consequence follow effective performance?
  8. Does a positive consequence follow nonperformance?
  9. Could the subordinate do it if he or she wanted to?

Notice that these steps don’t assume anything as they attempt to identify the source of the problem. Instead, each step examines the problem from a new perspective. How often do we remember to look at obstacles, training, and reinforcement–both negative and positive? How often do we just avoid the whole conversation?

Instead, work systematically through these questions and you’ve got a game plan to get everyone back on track.

To learn more about Fournies’ practical coaching views—including what to do if these nine steps do not improve performance—read the book.

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