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Employee Coaching: When To Step In
Knowing when to step in and when to hang back

A lot has been written about why managers should coach employees. A lot also has been written on how to coach employees. You can find many articles on the Pygmalion Effect and the Galatea Effect, which explain how employee coaching works. Very few articles help you know when to coach employees. That's what this article does.

Before Coaching Employees

Most of the time, a manager should not coach their employees. To understand that statement, it helps to know what employee coaching is and what employee coaching is not. Giving employees the knowledge and skills they need to perform their job tasks is not employee coaching; that is employee training. On the other hand, employee coaching is an on-going process of helping employee identify and overcome the hurdles that prevent them from excelling at their jobs.

Note that employee coaching involves helping employees identify solutions to their performance barriers.

You are not coaching your employees when you tell them what to do.  

When Not To Coach Employees

Before you can effectively coach employees you must know that they are properly trained and that they know what is expected of them. These are the times to NOT coach employees:
  • Their training is not complete
    When an employee has not been completely trained it is a waste of your time and theirs to try to coach them in those aspects of their job. If they have been properly trained in part of their job, you can coach them in that part, but not in the areas where they have not yet been trained. Do the training first. Then do the employee coaching.
  • They do not know what is expected of them
    It is pointless to coach employees who don't know what is expected of them and know how that is measured. Remember that employee coaching is designed to help them overcome performance barriers. If they don't know what performance is expected of them they won't know how to get there. Set clear objectives for your employees. Then do the employee coaching.
  • When you are in a hurry
    Employee coaching takes time. When you are in a hurry, you will not do a good job. You will not take the time to help them identify solutions, but will be more likely to just tell them what to do. Make time to do it right. Then do the employee coaching.
  • When you are angry or upset
    When you are upset, you won't exhibit the enthusiasm and friendliness you need to be effective as an employee coach. You may not be fair or equitable. You may give even subtle signals to the employee that could undermine the coaching you have been doing up to this point. Get your emotions in check. Then do the employee coaching.

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