Coaching for Performance and Development

IRI Podcast episode on Coaching For Performance

There was a time when the job of a manager was fairly cut and dried – you knew what needed to be done, taught your employees how to do the work, and evaluated their performance. But in today’s disrupted and rapidly changing new world, managers can’t have all the right answers. Their role has moved from command-and-control to support-and-guidance – which means that leaders have primarily become coaches. Today we are joined by Marcey Uday-Riley, a Senior Consultant with IRI Consultants. Here, she explains:

  • The difference between coaching for performance and coaching for development;
  • How use of The Coaching Continuum can help employers assist employees become more successful;
  • Why conversations are important for continued growth; and
  • A key strategy managers can use to avoid getting sidetracked during these critical conversations!

If you prefer to read along while you listen, we've done all the hard work for you! We listened back to this episode and took notes below, and access is free! 


What Is Coaching?

  • Coaching is asking individuals what they think, so they are able to come up with solutions on their own through guided questions. 
  • The goal of coaching is to close a gap between what an employee is doing now and what they could or should be doing. Coaching can also close the gap for goals that employees may have. 
    • While training is typically a group of people, sharing information and learning exercises, with the goal being that they discover something that everyone can relate to. Well designed and well delivered training is very effective. 
    • Coaching is training, but for one specific individual, and personalized goals, ideas, and strategies. Because it is so individualized, it can be even more powerful.
  • There are a few different kinds of coaching.
    • Coaching for Performance is about trying to close the gap between what an employee is doing now, and what they could or should be doing. It can be beneficial for everyone, regardless of if they are meeting their job expectations or not. If more employers started using performance coaching on all employees, that can create more long term growth and potentially job retention. 
    • Coaching for Development, on the other hand, is about trying to close the gap between what the employee is doing now and what the goals are for their future life. The goal of development coaching is overall growth.
    • In an ideal world, managers would do both performance and development coaching. However, because of reduced workforces and overburdened tasks, most managers are only thinking about how to coach for improved performance, and not coaching their stronger employees and coaching them to be better or helping them with long term career goals. 
  • Having a deeper understanding of an employee's life can give managers a better idea of how to coach for improved performance and development.
    • Before, employees were told to leave their personal life at home, but now, managers need to know their people and some of the forces that are impacting employees lives, because that can end up having an impact on job performance as well.
    • Younger generations of workers are more comfortable talking about their life as a whole, and tell employers that they are giving their entire selves, not just their work self.


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The Coaching Continuum

  • The coaching continuum is a way of looking at five different approaches for coaching for performance that a manager can take to help their employees be successful, and determining which approach is going to be best received by that individual, because people need personalized coaching for individualized performance expectations. 
    • In short, managers need to give employees what they need in the way they need it in order for it to work. 
    • The first style of coaching is direct. When a manager is direct, they tell people what to do. This is best for newer employees to lay down the job expectations.
    • Then, the coach can become more of a guide, advisor, facilitator, or supporter. Each of these approaches can describe management style, and that decision is made based on the needs of the person, job, and organization.
  • Each style of coaching for performance is outcomes based, and everything should be measurable to provide value to it. Employers and managers can assess where their employee is in terms of needs and goals, and determine what style of coaching works best. 
  • Newer hires, or someone with experience, is described as a novice. As they get more comfortable, they become a learner, and when they keep becoming more successful, they become a performer, then an expert, and then finally a master. 
  • The coaching styles, for the most part, line up with development levels for employees. 
  • Direct coaching assesses how much knowledge, skill, and ability an employee has, as well as how much experience they bring to the job. It also means confirming their knowledge level of the employee is accurate, and coaching for performance in a kind and caring way.
    • New employees benefit well from direct coaching because it provides structure for expectations and training. 
  • Guided coaching is asking the employee questions about what they know so far, and then providing guidance as they continue to learn how to meet expectations.
  • Performers are meeting job expectations, and the role of the manager is to advise, monitor, and continue to ask questions. At that point, managers are only providing advice when they do not know the answer, or cannot find it by themselves.
    • High performers are often neglected, and managers stop coaching them, but they still need coaches to become facilitators to oversee continued development and growth. This neglect can make strong, high performing employees feel like they are not valued in the workplace and could decide to leave.
    • Coaching should not stop because employees are experts and masters in their field. They still need support and guidance, just in a different way than job training.
  • When thinking about the best approach for how to coach for improved performance, employers need to either be observing employees or observing the results of their work.
    • This is evaluated based on an employee by employee basis, depending on their experience and performance expectation. 
    • Once employers have an idea of their work and their results, they can assess them based on their performance or results against the expectation. This determines how hands-on managers need to be, and the style of coaching for performance the employee needs.

Coaching Conversations

  • Conversations surrounding coaching for performance can be uncomfortable for managers but they are important for continued growth. And because people learn best through processes, there is a guided process for facilitating conversations on how to coach for improved performance.
    • The first step is describing the expectations for each employee, and why the conversation is necessary, whether the employee is underperforming, or just checking in for enhanced development. 
    • The second step should turn back to the employee, giving them the chance to talk through their performance, and why they might not be meeting their expectations. 
    • Once managers get an idea of the employees perspective, they can describe that experience back to the employee to show active listening, and a better understanding, as well as offering feedback.
    • The final step is closing the gap, and developing a plan for improved performance based on what was discussed in the first three steps. 
    • Where managers sometimes fail to do, is provide the crucial step two before providing feedback, which is offering the employee a chance to explain their situation and make it an active conversation.

Coaching Sidetracks

  • A sidetrack is what an employee does when they try to derail the conversation or make an excuse. This happens when they do not like that the manager is holding them accountable, even if it is in a caring way.
    • Sidetracks do not help the coach help the employee be successful.
  • There are a couple of strategies for leaders who feel the conversation is getting sidetracked during a coaching conversation.
    • The easiest strategy is called ARP: acknowledge, respond, and pivot.
      • When an employee throws out a sidetrack  can managers acknowledge it, and do not dispute them. Letting them feel heard, but not agreeing with them.
      • Responding is paraphrasing what the employee said, and making them feel listened to.
      • Then, managers can pivot away from the sidetrack, and return to the conversation at hand. 
  • These sidetracks can also be used to discuss broader topics such as labor unions, but employers need to be clear and remember employer provided guidelines when discussing unions.

LEAD Academy

  • IRI offers leadership development, called LEAD Academy, which is 22 topic specific leadership modules. They all instructor-led or online, and can be used as a curriculum for leaders of all abilities and experience. 
    • These courses can also fill in the gaps of skills and existing curriculum.
    • The classes also offer roleplay training, and provides real time interaction, and can build and strengthen skills in a controlled environment
    • The online synchronous training is designed for groups of about 16 people, in-person training is ideal around 20 participants so it can be truly engaging and controlled.

Marcey Uday-Riley Background

  • MSW, Families and Community from Wayne State University
  • She served as a Partner with Prism Performance Systems
  • Today, she is a Senior Consultant with IRI Consultants



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