Posts Tagged ‘Coaching skills’

Are you wasting 25% of your training budget?

Written by Matt Somers on . Posted in Coaching Skills Training

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Cape Verde. A great place to run some training

Cape Verde. A great place to run some training

Don’t spoil the ship for ha’p’orth of tar…

…was one of the many pieces of home-spun wisdom my mother shared with me as I was growing up.

I’m always reminded of it whenever the subject of running training on site comes up.

Of course, it normally occurs when we get to the thorny old issue of costs and my client will say, “What if we were to run it here in our training room? What would that save?”

Let’s consider a straight comparison using my own 2-day coaching skills training course.

If we’re able to use one of our recommended venues, participants will get:

  • A bright and airy training room, set up and equipped
  • Ergonomically designed chairs
  • Notepaper, pads and pencils
  • Unlimited tea, coffee, water and boiled sweets
  • Outside space for coaching practice and quality thinking time
  • peace and quiet, free from distractions

If I were to use the “typical” on site training room, participants will usually get:

  • A tiny training room that doubles as a store cupboard
  • Any chairs that haven’t been broken (and some that probably have)
  • Old handouts from last year’s manual handling course to use for notes
  • stuck with having to do “Tea runs” not forgetting that George likes extra sugar
  • 40watts of Tesco Value light bulbs
  • hounded by bosses knocking on the door asking “Could I just borrow Jenny a second?”

Okay, okay I’m making terrible generalisations. Some training rooms I get to use are fantastic, but I’d be surprised if you don’t recognise at least some truth in what I’m saying.

My serious point of course is to consider the effect of the learning of the participant. Saving 10% on the cost of the training but reducing its effectiveness by 25% is clearly not a good idea.

Easy for me to say of course, when I don’y have to foot the bill.

Am I being unfair?

I’d appreciate your comments

How to turn performance problems around

Written by Matt Somers on . Posted in Coaching Skills for Managers

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That's it, I've had enough!

That's it, I've had enough!

I’m sure we’ve all had them; the problem performer. The person in the team who seems to drain the very lifeblood out of everyone else like some kind of psychic vampire. The person who pours scorn on every new initiative and finds a thousand reasons why the latest change can’t work.

Is it worth investing time and energy in such individuals or would it be better to look at some kind of exit strategy? After all, as Robert Holden says, it’s awful when people quit and leave but it’s worse when they quit and stay.

This article considers a coaching approach for turning these situations around.

It’s not just your problem

The great temptation, and indeed the preferred tactic at many an organisation, is just to put up with it. Your own internal dialogue may run along these lines: “I know Dave can be a miserable old so and so and he does wind everyone up, but he posts good numbers and the customers seem to like him” What you can’t assume is that the rest of the team will take a similarly philosophical approach. Dave may be having a terribly demoralising effect of everybody else and they’ll also be looking to you to see how you handle the situation. Conflict is usually uncomfortable and most of us prefer to avoid it, but you may end up with a bigger problem down the line.

Take action quickly

The best time to deal with any kind of performance problem is when it first occurs. Try to resist the temptation to write off a difficult incident as a “one-off”

Also, it’s very difficult to discuss problems some time after they’ve have happened and can lead to a pantomime style, “Oh yes you did. Oh no I didn’t” conversation.

Try to understand the behaviour and the causes before giving up

You may feel like taking a stand and just finding a way for you and your under performing employee to part company, but remember:

  • Other people will be watching to see how you handle things
  • Firing someone for the wrong reasons or in the wrong way can be very, very costly
  • You may miss an opportunity to uncover a bigger issue which solving would bring wider benefits

Give feedback

There’s buckets of advice on ways to give effective feedback which I’ll not repeat here, but I offer a simple model for now:

A       Action                   This is what you did

I         Impact                   This is the result and impact of what you did

D       Development        This is what needs to change

Coach and ask the employee for their own solutions

Eventually you’re going to have to involve the employee and recognise that they must take ultimate responsibility for changing things. This is where a coaching conversation organised around some carefully constructed questions can be invaluable.

Agree a specific course of action with timescales

Make sure you follow up and make sure you subtlely but sincerely praise any change and improvement.

Finally, recognise that articles like this that present checklists and step by step formulas can only ever be a guide. Always remember that the person concerned is a fellow human being struggling on life’s journey. They are not a problem; they have a problem.

Top 10 tips for coaching difficult people

Written by Matt Somers on . Posted in Coaching Skills for Managers

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Difficult relationships can be repaired

Difficult relationships can be repaired

It has been said that there is no such thing as difficult employees, only ineffective managers, but I’ve yet to meet anyone who believes that’s true. In the end, if people want to be difficult that’s there choice, but recognizing that the way we manage such people is part of the mix here’s a selection of tried and tested techniques:

1.    Look for the cause. We don’t generally recruit known cynics or troublemakers, so if someone is proving to be a difficult employee the first step might be to understand what has happened in their view to cause this behaviour.

2.    Deal with performance not person. A great trick if you can pull it off and is not easy in emotional situations, but try to deal with what the person does rather than get tangled up in the sort of person they are. The next tip will help.

3.    Be descriptive not evaluative. When giving feedback, offer your observations of what actually happened and the consequences rather than judging things as good, bad or otherwise. People can’t argue with the facts but they can argue against your judgements.

4.    Don’t comment on attitude. Attitude must be the most subjective term used at work. Every one of us believes that our own attitude is useful and appropriate or we would change it, so telling someone they have the wrong attitude is pointless. Describing what they did and the results that ensued will prove much more productive.

5.    Deal with problems while they’re small. If someone does something that irritates you or upsets the team the time to deal with it is there and then. In fairness, people often don’t realism the effects of their actions and unless we point things out, the unhelpful behaviour takes root.

6.    Don’t take sides. If a member of your team asks you to deal with a problem with another member of staff say that you’ll look into it and get back to them. Don’t agree that “X is a real problem and we need to straighten him out”. This could come back to haunt you later on and besides you’ll gain more respect from everyone by your professional approach.

7.    Deal with things in private. At some stage you and your difficult employee are going to need to have a conversation. This must absolutely be done in private if you’re to have any chance of getting back on an even keel. Many of the previous tips are designed to help you avoid storing things up until you lose your temper and blurt out your frustrations in front of everybody.

8.    Consider the wider team. As Mr Spock used to say in Star Trek, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few and of the one.” When we have difficulties with one member of staff it can be easy for them to soak up all our energy and attention and neglect our other team members.

9.    Don’t sweep problems under the carpet. There’s no point placing the problem person in some half-baked project role or inventing some other non-job to get them out of the way. Small businesses simply can’t accommodate the costs of this tactic and large organizations should think carefully about the messages this sends

10. Be prepared to cut your losses. Robert Holden says that “it’s awful when people quit and go, but it’s worse when they quit and stay!” If somebody really refuses to change their ways despite your best efforts, it may be better for both parties to go their separate ways.

Coach, coach, coach

On a more positive note, why not see if you can turn your problem performers into your stars! Sit down with them and talk about what’s going on. Find out what the problems are and see what can be done. See if you can discover new ways in which they might contribute and even consider offering more responsibility further down the line if things improve. I’ve met many “poachers turned gamekeepers” in my time.