The importance of taking a personal interest in your employees’ growth and improvement.

Coaching and counseling are both very effective tools managers can utilize to help drive continued improvement. The trick is to know which tool to use, and when, in order to appropriately engage your employees and encourage them to drive the desired results.

Coaching is strategically guiding someone into improved performance through reflection on how they apply a specific skill and/or knowledge. Coaching is used to increase performance when the employee is already performing a job well but maybe needs encouragement to reach greater heights. Coaching can also be used with an employee who has excellent skills in some areas but needs support to achieve goals in other areas of the job.

Let’s take a closer look at how these are both defined:

For example: An employee who excels at managing their staff but needs to develop better business acumen.

Counseling is defined as helping someone explore and possibly resolve problems that could be impacting performance. Counseling is used to improve performance when the manager has identified a problem with the employee’s current performance that, if uncorrected, may derail his or her ability to succeed or even stay with the organization.

For example: An employee who is not meeting sales targets or who is missing deadlines.

Understanding the differences between coaching and counseling is crucial to successful manager-employee relationships:

Coaching Counseling
Increases performance Improves performance/behaviors
Stresses action Stresses understanding
Asks How? Asks Why?
Opportunities are prominent Obstacles are prominent
Educational Psychological
Success-oriented Cure-oriented
Reviews goals & plans for the future Reviews the past & focuses on the future
Reinforces positive behavior Eliminates negative behavior
Maximizes potential Resolves problems

Although coaching and counseling have different purposes, they are interrelated. Some coaching reveals attitude problems, fears, or other factors that interfere with the willingness to do one’s job. When such barriers to motivation are identified, managers must shift to  counseling mode in order to resolve those barriers before engaging in coaching. There is no point in working on an employee’s “Can’t DO” problems before resolving their “Won’t DO” problems.

Needs for coaching can also emerge during counseling. For instance, when an employee is intimidated by the complexity of a task, that fear can be manifested in several counterproductive work behaviors. Consequently, coaching is a remedy for some of the motivation problems that managers identify when counseling their employees.

When do you coach? When do you counsel?
When you need to give positive feedback When you need to give negative feedback
When you identify growth potential When there is a policy violation
When there are non-policy related issues
(Ex. Lack of assertiveness or motivation)
When job duties are affected
To improve a skillset When complaints are received
When it is employee initiated When observations are made
To work on goals developed during the annual performance review To improve on items identified during the annual performance review

How to initiate Coaching/Counseling:

While the reasons for utilizing coaching and counseling differ, the steps involved are quite similar.

When preparing for a coaching or counseling meeting, make sure you are prepared. Plan what you intend to say.

Be brief – Get to the point and stay on topic. You will find it easier to be brief if you prepare.

Be specific – Make sure you speak about the skills you would like to work on or specific behaviors that need improving, not your interpretations.

Counseling can be stressful. You are essentially attempting to correct behaviors before needing to take next steps, which could include disciplinary steps or even termination. During counseling meetings, consider including the following points:

Explain the impact – Tell your employees how their coworkers perceive their behavior or how it affects team performance.

State the desired alternative – Go beyond a description of the negative behavior to describe what you expect in the future. By stating the desired positive behavior, you can use positive reinforcement rather than punishment to drive performance in the future.

When companies lack focus on their employee’s development and future, they quite often lack an established succession plan for future leaders of the organization. Leaders have a responsibility to invest in their employees by helping them grow and correcting deficiencies in their performance and behaviors. By avoiding performance issues, they tend to continue and cause a decrease in morale and productivity. The Human Resources professionals at Resourcing Edge are here to help you work through developing a successful coaching and counseling program. Contact your Client Account Manager to discuss.

Kimberly D. Gray, Senior HR Services Partner
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