Coaching poor performers (remedial coaching)

Even goals like “I want to achieve 20% more sales this year” are often less specific than they seem at first glance. For example, what is the client prepared to invest to achieve those sales? What level of profitability do they want to maintain? Do they want these sales to be with one-off customers, or to build repeat business?

Even the word “performance” may have very different meanings. For example, as judged by whom? A short-term blast of large-scale improvement, or a more consistent, sustainable improvement? As compared with a personal or localised best, or a more demanding standard? About winning, or being placed? It all comes down to the question: What is important for you to focus on?

The link between focus and performance is explained elegantly by author Nigel MacLennan, in his book Coaching and Mentoring (Gower, 1995, p61). He explains:

  • Focus increases awareness
  • Awareness increases understanding
  • Understanding increases control
  • Control increases performance
  • Performance increases results.

So a useful series of questions for the coach to work through is:

  • What is important for you to focus on?
  • What does this focus make you aware of, that you had not recognised before?
  • What questions does this new awareness raise for you?
  • What new understanding comes from considering those questions?
  • What choices does that understanding create for you?
  • How willing are you to follow those choices? (i.e. to exercise control over them)
  • What else would help you exert control over yourself and what happens to and around you?
  • How specifically will these different behaviours and thinking patterns raise your performance levels?(in what ways; in what circumstances, with what degree of consistency, etc)
  • How clear is the link between this new level of performance and the results you want? (i.e. will this level of performance be good enough?)

So helping the client be specific about the performance goal is only part of the coach/ mentor role. It’s important also to help them be specific about each stage of their thinking about it. That may require careful questioning about the language they use at each stage of MacLennan’s model. Exploring the context in this way clarifies drivers and barriers; and helps integrate the intellectual aspect of setting performance goals with the emotional underpinning essential to bring them about.

© David Clutterbuck. All rights reserved

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