Supervisor Skills: Secrets of Success

Coaching Employees to Improve Performance

May 31, 2022 AEU LEAD Season 2 Episode 8
Supervisor Skills: Secrets of Success
Coaching Employees to Improve Performance
Show Notes Transcript

Employees today want to be coached and led, not controlled and managed. For many supervisors, this means developing an entirely new set of skills. That is especially true in industries where command and control management practices exist. In this episode, we highlight five ways supervisors can effectively coach employees to improve performance.

View this episode on our website.

About Joe
As Director of AEU LEAD, Joe White focuses on helping members transform operational goals into actionable plans through a structured change management process. Prior to joining AEU, Joe was a senior consultant for E.I. DuPont’s consulting division, DuPont Sustainable Solutions (DSS). He joined DSS in 2011 to develop the next generation of safety practices using extensive research in behavioral sciences he’s compiled over a period of nearly two decades. His efforts resulted in the development of The Risk Factor, which is now the flagship instructor-led offering for the consulting division. Combined, Joe has 26 years of operational safety experience, the majority of which was with DuPont. Joe has been published in Occupational Health & Safety Magazine for his prominent work in safety relative to behavioral and neurosciences and is an event speaker at many leading industry conferences including National Safety Council (NSC) Congress and Expos, American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), and National Maritime Safety Association (NMSA). Joe is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University and has a B.S., in Safety and Risk Administration.

Where you can find Joe


Supervisor Skills: Secrets of Success is a production of AEU LEAD, a division of The American Equity Underwriters, Inc. With 60 years of combined industry experience, our supervisor training program gives mid-level managers in the maritime industry the skills needed to influence employees, customers, and peers. This increases employee engagement, reduces turnover and rework, and ultimately results in higher profits for their companies. 

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Employees today want to be coached, not managed. What does this mean, and what does it look like in practice? That's our topic today. Stay with us.

Hello, and thank you for joining us. My name is Joe White, and I'm the host of Supervisor Skills: Secrets of Success. The SOS podcast series is produced to create ongoing development opportunities for mid and frontline managers. With each episode, we take on topics of interest and share insights and perspectives for the benefit of our listeners. In today's SOS short episode, we're talking about coaching. We're going to explain what it is, discuss its importance, and offer some thoughts on how to do it. In addition, we're going to frame our discussion over top of the generational transition currently underway. Coaching is very important to Gen Z employees, and we'll be instrumental in successfully integrating them into the workforce.

For most, coaching is a familiar term. In many instances, our frame of reference for it started early in childhood and is connected to involvement or participation in team sports. No different than previous experience in athletics, coaching in the workplace is about helping individuals realize their full potential in achieving performance objectives. Harvard Business Review describes coaching as a management practice used to communicate actions to be taken by employees to improve individual, team, or organizational performance. While coaching as a management practice, managing and coaching are not one and the same. Whereas managing involves extrinsic or external motivation, coaching is all about intrinsic or internal motivation. In practice, it's the difference between building a fire beneath someone and building a fire within them.

While past generations were receptive to management practices involving extrinsic motivation, that's no longer the case. Younger generations are inspired by supervisors they know and trust, and respond best to collaboration and dialogue. They want to be involved in the decision-making process and routinely oppose those things imposed upon them. To succeed, supervisors must adopt new skills and adapt to practice techniques that better align with the preferences of this incoming generation. Because coaching is feedback-based and intended to improve performance, the means by which it's provided is very important. Gen Z responds best to continuous and ongoing feedback. Think evolution, not revolution. An approach emphasizing progress and not perfection will be far better received and more effective over time.

So how do you do it? What are some best practices for coaching employees? Here are five recommendations for consideration:

1. Make Coaching a Part of Your Daily Routine

A supervisor's role is to achieve performance objectives through others. Providing feedback needed to improve employee performance is essential to employees and supervisors alike. Integrate coaching into your daily routine and foster a culture whereby feedback is valued for the benefit it can provide.

2. Focus on Needs of the Individual

Coaching is intended to help individuals grow and improve based on their unique needs. While it's a process intended to improve performance, it's about people. To effectively coach employees, you must connect with them on an individual basis. Communication styles and preferences matter, and those that take the time required to get to know their employees in advance are far more likely to succeed.

3. Provide a Big Picture Perspective

While coaching is intended to address individual improvement opportunities, it's in the context of organizational performance that it matters. Employees need to understand how their performance impacts others and should be provided with a frame of reference regarding its importance in meeting critical business objectives. Helping employees find their place in the larger story gives context and meaning and creates a sense of belonging. This is particularly important for Generation Z employees now entering the workforce.

4. Employ Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving Skills

With coaching, it's important for supervisors to frame performance needs descriptively, not prescriptively. Employees need to accept ownership of and responsibility for making needed improvements. Ideally, this should force critical thinking and involve employees in practical problem-solving. Supervisors should guide the process but allow employees the opportunity to come up with their own strategies for growth and improvement.

5. Remain Future-Focused

In providing coaching to employees, it's important to remember the frame of reference is on what's ahead and not behind them. While past performance helps us identify needs, it's what happens moving forward that matters most. When supervisors dwell in the past, employees internalize blame and have a tendency to become defensive. Help employees see themselves in a future state and challenge them to come up with a personalized plan detailing what it will take for them to get there.

The role that supervisors play in a 21st-century workplace is changing. As our senior most employees transition out, we must find ways to prepare those replacing them for the positions they will be expected to fulfill. Given that only 30% of employees possess the skills needed for their jobs, supervisors have an increasingly important role to play in onboarding and integrating new hires. To succeed, we must integrate learning into the job and provide routine feedback on ways performance can be improved. The key to making this happen is coaching.

Thank you for joining us. I hope this information will help you grow and improve as a supervisor. We look forward to sharing additional podcasts with you in the months ahead and welcome any suggestions you might have for topics you would like to see us cover. We're always looking for guests and enjoy sharing insights and success stories from the field. If that's something, you would like to be a part of, just let us know. The SOS podcast series is brought to you by AEU LEAD, a consultancy dedicated to the needs of mid and frontline managers. We value and appreciate any feedback and would encourage you to review and rate your experience with the show. Wherever you access your podcast for additional information about AEU LEAD or to follow us on social media, please use the links in the show notes accompanying this episode. That's it for now. Stay safe, and thanks for listening.