Most people in business can relate to this situation: There’s a person on your team or in your department who you enjoy working with and who shows true potential. This same person also has room for polishing. Let’s say this employee’s demeanor around the office is very pleasant and engaging but her customer-service skills are less than stellar. You know she’s teachable but she can also be defensive and/or sensitive. Your next counseling technique could save or destroy a chance for this employee to stay with the team. If she does stay, your coaching tactics will determine whether or not her continuation on your team is positive.
Counseling is a tool used for correcting behavior. Effective counseling is a skill that no one can learn overnight. It is not technical – it’s a soft skill that takes time and experience to master. It begins with simple logic and common sense mixed with respect and politeness. With practice, it will grow into an ability where one will be able to read the person or persons in any situation and tailor one’s communication to fit the needs and response-levels of each individual simultaneously. In partnership with counseling, effective coaching is a technique that is used to develop employees’ talents and raise engagement levels.
Counseling techniques can (and should) change. The style should largely depend on who is addressed and the issue at hand. People learn, listen, and take criticism very differently. It is important that managers build relationships with their employees. This will allow managers to understand how their employees operate and know their strengths and weaknesses. With this, managers should take caution as the relationships that are built cannot cross the line of neutrality. Managers need to remain objective. When this is understood it will be easier to tailor a correctional conversation that will end with positive results.
Coaching is more of the ongoing mentoring relationship between manager and employee. Coaching deals with developing an employee’s skills and, at the same time, their engagement with the team and with the company. Attainable and measurable goals should be set each year. These annual goals should be items that an employee can realistically achieve within a 12-month time frame, be aligned with personal and departmental goals, and mirror the values of the company. Allowing developmental opportunities tells the employee that the manager values them and is willing to invest in them.
There are a few strategies to exhibiting the most successful coaching and counseling outcomes. One approach is to treat a mistake as a learning opportunity. Instead of criticizing the employee for something he or she did in error, a manager should get down in the trenches, walk the employee through the resolution, and explain what he or she can do differently in the future. Another tactic is to give an employee praise and recognition. This never has to be an over-the-top display of gratitude. A simple “thank you,” “good idea,” and giving credit where due will go a long way.
Another method that is absolutely valuable is giving the employee the full picture. Whenever a manager is explaining a process or a resolution to a problem, the description should never stop after explaining the “what.” It should also review the “why” and the “how.” This way, the employee is taught to be more self-sufficient because by having an opportunity to fully understand the inner mechanisms of the work.
If all else fails, the most important tactic is to always remember to treat every moment as an opportunity for training. The manager can incorporate a lesson into almost every conversation. It can be conversations around hypothetical situations or about the employee’s perspective on a current organizational issue.
Most coaching and counseling will take place in an unstructured environment. Often it will be very brief and in an almost casual exchange. Never underestimate the power of an open conversation. An employee, and sometimes the manager, will walk away with more valuable information and new perspectives.
- Lauren Lynch has a collective 13 years of experience in Human Resources. She completed her undergraduate work at Arcadia University where she earned a Bachelors in Sociology with a double minor in Psychology and Anthropology. While earning her degree she also worked as an intern in Human Resources. Lauren has worked in HR under various industries to include Cable Communications, Technology, and Healthcare and has had a hand in recruitment, coaching and training, onboarding, employee events, benefits, policy, performance management, employee relations, etc. To continue her education Lauren completed her executive education at the University of Notre Dame. The 12-month program included certification classes to elevate skills in leadership and management. This is Lauren’s first time writing business articles and is eager to continue sharing the knowledge she has gained from her experiences.