Over the years as I have coached emerging leaders, I’ve noticed that one of the biggest challenges for both managers and leaders is determining when to employ strategies and tactics of either coaching or corrective action when working with employees. I generally make a point of explaining the difference between the tactics briefly in each webinar I host.
For some, distinguishing between the two tactics can be daunting. While preparing for my next webinar on Thursday, I put together some key discussion points to help leaders make this distinction. These points are aimed at helping them improve their employee relations and talent management processes. Here’s a preview of my discussion points:
Coaching—whether for leaders or for subordinates—is unique in that is involves a collaborative process between the coach and the recipient. Coaching is done when an employee is already meeting expectations, and is used as a method to establish self-directed goals. When successfully coaching employees, managers open a two-way discussion to create an environment in which the employee feels comfortable being sincere with his or her superior. The employee is encouraged to set personal development goals that he or she can monitor. The leader’s role, then, is to instill confidence in the employee—communicate respect for the employee’s goals. As a relationship of goodwill and trust is established with the employee, the coaching process becomes smooth and effective.
In contrast to coaching, corrective action is used when an employee is not meeting minimum expectations. Corrective action is the most effective strategy to use when an employee is performing poorly, and should take a directive (top-down) approach. Corrective action focuses not only on the problem itself, but also on the natural and environmental consequences of the problem. The end-goal is for the employee to begin satisfying the minimum expectations in his or her job. Oftentimes, corrective action includes an expression of the seriousness of the poor performance and the final consequences of not improving.
Coaching and corrective-action tactics create a balance between controlling and empowering. Where corrective action requires a more controlling approach—best used for very simple tasks or severe consequences for failure—coaching focuses on empowering the individual, or guiding him or her to even higher levels of performance by creating an environment characterized by motivation and collaboration.
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