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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. For some, distinguishing between the two tactics can be daunting. Here’s a brief overview that describes the goals and outcomes of each:


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.

Coaching vs Corrective Action

Corrective Action

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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Linda Linfield
Linda Linfield

Linda holds B.A. and M.A. degrees in Communications from Brigham Young University, where she subsequently taught strategic planning and writing courses. She is certified in facilitating and leading workshops in various psychometric assessments, and has led customized leadership programs in more than 30 countries.

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2 comments — View
  • Hi Linda, I enjoyed reading your article.It reminded me of various times in my career when within a single day I would step out of a positive role supporting a colleague on a project,and sitting down with another to address a number of non-performance issues.I found it more difficult in the latter cases,not so much in the personal interractions,but more so in terms of the external factors which had to be taken into account.Over time the increase in industrial regulation demanded a whole new knowledge base,and brought about more formality when dealing with performance issues.My point is that I that the Talent management function has shown significant progress,however this has not been matched in the performance management area.

  • Hi Joseph – I appreciate your thoughtful response to my post, and I’m interested in your experience. What, specifically, do you note as the significant changes in talent management, and why do you suppose it has advanced quickly relative to performance management? (And by “performance management” am I correct to assume that you are referring to the corrective action situations? If you mean the larger domain of performance management, we could have a longer discussion about why most employees and managers dread performance reviews and the follow-up process.)

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