5 Questions to Consider When Coaching (Or Not Coaching) an Employee

As your company develops and evolves, your employees need to as well. That being said, you don’t always have time to develop everyone. And, as you’ve probably figured out, not every employee responds to your coaching the same way. While some people may develop at a rapid pace, others struggle. Sometimes it feels like more of a commitment than you can afford to take on. So, how do you tell whether someone can, or should, be coached?  Asking yourself these five questions can you help you make the right decision.

  1. Why is it they’re struggling? A Harvard Business Review article points out that while an employee may be reacting negatively to an attempt at coaching, there is usually a deeper and rational reason for this. Getting to this root cause can help you understand how to coach them, or whether you even should.
  2. What is it that needs changing? Some things can be easily taught through coaching while others may be more difficult. According to the American Management Association, “when an employee has the skills and ability to complete the task at hand, but for some reason is struggling with the confidence, focus, motivation, drive, or bandwidth to be at their best, coaching can help.” If your employee just needs a little motivation to get them moving coaching is just what they might need. If it’s skills that are lacking, more formal training may be what’s needed.
  3. Are their developmental gaps or struggles affecting others? There is a choice to be made when it’s clear that one employee’s struggle is affecting the morale of others. It’s possible they can change but you may do more damage to the rest of your team in the time it takes to find out. It’s great to be compassionate, but always consider the bigger picture.
  4. How do they react to feedback from others? On a daily basis, fellow employees provide each other feedback - constructive and not-so-constructive. Sometimes, this feedback isn’t even verbal or explicit, but it’s there. Watch carefully and see how your employees react to this feedback from their colleagues. Their behavior with colleagues may give you a clue as to how open to feedback they are.
  5. Do they want to be coached? While your star employee in one department may seem like the best candidate for coaching into a management position, if they don’t want to be coached or put the effort into developing, changes won’t stick. This can be seen in high performers who take a promotion for a pay increase but don’t develop an effective management style. Make sure the goal of your coaching efforts is a mutual goal that your employee buys into.

If you decide someone is coachable, there is one more thing to consider; that’s your approach. In order to coach effectively, you have to use the Platinum Rule. While the Golden Rule tells us to do unto others as we would have them do unto us, the Platinum Rules tells us to do unto others as they would do unto themselves. It’s a tricky, but critical difference if you want your coaching to be well received. You can read more about it here.

How do you decide whether you should coach an employee?