Performance Coaching

Performance Coaching image with books

Performance Coaching has become an important tool and key capability in supporting a high- performance oriented culture in many organizations. Effective and timely, it can make the development and implementation of a business strategy more successful. This is  especially successful in an environment that is fast-paced, competitive and uncertain.

The Talent Development Challenge

Despite the enormous effort that organizations make in developing their talent, many find that their employee base is not meeting the performance that is required to expand and grow. Organizations who are successful in developing their talent, according to Lis Merrick of Chronus Corporation, tend to focus in three main areas:

  1. A defined process for talent selection and leadership development, which supports strategic business and human capital objectives.
  2. A culture where employees feel emotionally engaged with their work, and want to remain, learn and grow.
  3. A demonstrated commitment to develop and support individuals through Performance Coaching, thereby ensuring a continues process of development, feedback, and positive learning energy focused on employees.

What is Performance Coaching?

Performance Coaching is an ongoing process designed to help the Person Being Coached (PBC) gain greater competence and overcome barriers to improving performance. The Association for Talent Development, in their td March 2015 issue, defined it as “an approach that relies more on asking questions than giving answers…which in turn better engages employees”. Performance Coaching helps the PCB get the best performance out of themselves—the potential for which was already there.

Benefits of Performance Coaching

Increasingly, organizations are realizing the many benefits of developing talent through Performance Coaching:

  • Promotes “growth and development” as a corporate key value
  • Builds commitment to goals and their achievement
  • Accelerates learning and learning transfer, especially for new hires
  • Develops self-sufficient employees
  • Fast-tracks high potential employees
  • Increases motivation and engagement
  • Helps the PBC overcome obstacles

In essence, successful Performance Coaching is a conversation of self-discovery. It follows a logical process that leads to superior performance, as well as commitment to sustained growth and positive relationships.

When to use Performance Coaching

The performance coach’s role is best used for interactions that move the PBC forward, specifically when the PBC:

  • Needs insight about his or her behavior and actions
  • Is feeling stagnant or stuck and needs some way to move forward
  • Is not sure what is interfering with the ability to achieve their goals
  • Realizes some technical, organizational, or other problem is blocking their performance potential
  • Needs help preparing for an upcoming situation or difficult conversation

The performance coach’s role is to help the PBC gain insight and understanding regarding the topic of conversation, not to solve the problem for him or her. In Performance Coaching situations, the performance coach spends the majority of time (about 80%) listening, and the remaining time (20%), asking open-ended, high-value questions. During Performance Coaching, the coach may give the “Why” and then works to get the PBC to take ownership so that the PBC can own the “What” and the “How”.
In the following example, the performance coach communicates the “What” and “Why”, followed with the “How” question:

“I sense, (I’ve observed) that you don’t feel comfortable in front of an audience, yet your role as an Account Executive requires you to present information frequently to our customers. I know that you want to be successful in this area. How do you think you can become more comfortable presenting”?

Performance Coaching does not depend on having a certain organizational position or title. It depends on having the desire to help others succeed and possessing the skills required to work through the process of a Performance Coaching conversation.

Coaching and Mentoring: What are the Differences?

Most talent programs will also use mentoring as a complementary method to Performance Coaching. Performance Coaching and mentoring use the same skills and approach but Performance Coaching is short term, task-based and mentoring is a longer-term relationship. Performance Coaching is to improve the individual‘s performance on the job. Mentoring is to develop the individual not only for the current job, but also for the future.

The following chart shows some of the key distinctions made between coaching and mentoring:

Click on Image to Enlarge
The following model is a simple but powerful process that ensures success. You will note that the foundation is Observing and Creating Rapport. The precursor to that of course, is earning the right to have the performance conversation based on credibility, honesty and trust.

Graphic of hand with six performance coaching skills - Friesen, Kaye and Associates -

Click on Image to Enlarge

Performance Coaching as a Powerful Strategy

Organizations have heavily invested in creating a performance culture. CEO’s are increasingly focusing on Performance Coaching as a competitive advantage to drive desired behaviors in employees. A strategy especially focused on Performance Coaching will:

  • Make it easy for the PBC to succeed by helping them break their learning into small increments. Smaller increments that are aligned with organizational goals
  • Provide the PCB with the opportunity to demonstrate and verify new learning during the Performance Coaching process
  • Give the PCB personal encouragement and support, which increases the probability of success
  • Make it possible to fail safely and to learn from mistakes. This is also the foundation of a high-performance learning organization
  • Challenge everyone to attempt more and more difficult tasks, which also supports a performance culture

In our next blog, we will also review the key concepts in an effective Performance Coaching model.

For a more in-depth look at FKA’s high performance coaching Program click or call us at 1-800-FKA-5585 for a description of our customizable Mentoring Excellence Program.

FKA President
Michael Nolan