Engagement Practice _ 19: Train Managers in Performance Coaching

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While there is no one right way to do performance coaching, most employees

know a good performance coach when they have one. One study

of great sports coaches found that what many of them describe as their

secrets of success—‘‘recruit the right players and inspire them to win’’—is

not what they do at all. Instead, they carefully observe their players in

practice, stop practice and to give detailed feedback and teach the proper

way, ask questions to make sure the player understood, watch the player

perform the play or movement as instructed, and finally reward with simple

praise.15

Joe Torre, manager of the New York Yankees, received wide public

acclaim in an article that appeared in Fortune Magazine after he had guided

his team to yet another baseball world championship. In the article, psychologist

Daniel Goleman, author of the book Emotional Intelligence, said of

Torre, ‘‘This guy is a textbook case of an emotionally intelligent leader.’ ’’

The article’s author describes Torre’s principal management tool as ‘‘not

meetings or motivational talks, but regular one-on-one encounters with

his players, which he uses to monitor and regulate their psyches.’’ One of

his players describes how Torre ‘‘watches and listens before he says a thing.’’

Another says, ‘‘you never see him berating a player . . . or dropping his

head in disgust.’’16

Torre and many other managers have the natural gift for coaching, but

performance coaching can be learned. One of the best teachers of performance

coaching is Ferdinand Fournies, whose book, Coaching for Improved

Work Performance, outlines a systematic process based on principles of behavioral

psychology. It is a process that provides a workable alternative to

what he refers to as ‘‘YST—Yelling, Screaming, and Threatening.’’17

Instead of pushing solutions on people with the force of your argument,

pull solutions out of them.18

—Ferdinand Fournies

Fournies begins by confronting managers who believe falsely that employees’

bad attitudes are unchangeable, and that employees choose, against

their best interests, to underperform. Instead, he proposes that managers

must do everything possible to prevent employee failure by pursuing a

system of interventions. He presents sixteen reasons employees don’t do

what they are supposed to do:

1. They don’t know what they are supposed to do.

2. They don’t know how to do it.

3. They don’t know why they should do it.

4. They think they are doing it (lack of feedback).

5. There are obstacles beyond their control.

6. They think it will not work.

7. They think their way is better.

8. They think something is more important (priorities).

9. There is no positive consequence to them for doing it.

10. There is a negative consequence to them for doing it.

11. There is a positive consequence to them for not doing it.

12. There is no negative consequence to them for not doing it.

13. Personal limits (incapacity).

14. Personal problems.

15. Fear (they anticipate future negative consequences).

16. No one could do it.19

When these sales managers fire someone they are saying, ‘‘I don’t

have one or two weeks to help you improve your performance, but

I have thirty work days to devote to replacing you.’’20

—Ferdinand Fournies