One of the most common coaching assignments we receive is helping our clients improve the performance of a struggling employee. Sometimes, it's the employee that we're coaching directly, other times, the leader is our client. Either way, our advice to the employee's direct supervisor remains the same: the fastest and surest way to improve the performance of a fraught employee is to make sure that the coaching assignment includes both a carrot (or a bunch) and a stick (or a bundle).
"I have seen people change their behavior many times
with the right incentives and the right coaching."
The leader will frequently push back and assert that someone can't change unless they want to change, yet I have seen people change their behavior many times with the right incentives and the right coaching.
What Should You Do?
When you have an employee who is struggling, the most effective path to change involves offering them coaching and guidance, either from inside the company or from an outside coach or other educational opportunity. Frame the offer as a positive, as in: "we believe in you and want to see you develop. Because of that, we're offering you this ____ (training, coaching opportunity, book, webinar, or so on)."
In addition, however, it's important to emphasize that while you will help them improve, you expect them to take advantage of the help you're offering and to cooperate fully with the offered resource. Stress that there will be specific consequences if they don't take up your offer, as well as if they don't show the expected improvement.
Make sure that you're behaviorally specific with the requested change. Don't just say, for example, that you would like them to improve their attitude. Make sure they know what you believe someone with the appropriate attitude should do and say, as well as being behaviorally specific about what they should not do or say.
Did You Know
We offer training for leaders that helps them improve their skills in working with struggling employees, as well as coaching for leaders and employees on these issues.
Be sure to read Lynne's book "We Need to Talk -- Tough Conversations with Your Employee"