What Is Performance Deficiency Coaching?

During a performance deficiency coaching conversation, a coach (often a manager) helps a team member become aware of a performance gap or opportunity for improvement, strategizes with him or her to create a plan for improvement, and holds him or her accountable for following through on commitments and needed changes. Although it comes more naturally to some people than others, performance coaching is something that all leaders can learn to do effectively.

What Is Performance-Based Coaching?

Performance-based coaching is another way of looking at performance deficiency coaching. It’s the practice of helping a team member or colleague discover ways to improve their performance until it rises to the level of performance requirements and expectations. All employees—even the best ones—have issues and development needs from time to time. When these moments happen, a manager is obligated to intervene and facilitate a robust coaching process. The key ingredient is a leader who has the courage and skill to recognize an opportunity for performance improvement and close the performance gap with the employee.

Many performance gaps have nothing to do with one’s intentions or even motivation. Rather, it is often due to an oversight, a lack of resources, learning a new role, or other circumstances. Performance deficiency coaching, then, should not be seen as either a positive process or a reprimand. Instead, performance coaching designed to point out and discuss performance gaps should be part of the organization’s everyday culture.

Most employees appreciate a leader who can talk about their performance in a candid, straightforward way. Employees are usually aware when their performance is unsatisfactory and appreciate clear feedback from a coach who has valuable insights and patience as well as a desire to support the growth and development of people.

The bottom line is that people enjoy improving their skills, contributing to the goals of the enterprise, and receiving quality coaching that will enable them to grow, flourish, and make a difference.

What Are Performance Deficiencies?

Performance deficiencies are actions, behaviors, and results that fall below expected and agreed-upon standards. An isolated mistake or missed opportunity does not constitute a chronic performance deficiency. The latter emerges when an employee consistently falls short of a desired outcome over a defined time frame. However, there are exceptions. For example, a team member’s performance deficiency may occasionally surface quickly, which would require a rapid response from a coach who is willing to jumpstart the coaching process.

For performance deficiency coaching to work, skills, requirements, and standards must be well-defined and communicated to all team members. When this happens, the coach doesn’t need to be authoritative or overly controlling; instead, they can simply guide the dialogue and explore the deficiency as a partner in the coaching process.

Chronic performance deficiencies can include situations like those listed below:

  • Consistently missing vital deadlines
  • Producing low-quality work
  • Frequent absences from work
  • Errors and missed assignments
  • Low productivity

Employees displaying chronic performance issues sometimes also show other troubling patterns, such as poor relationships with their team members, conflicts with customers, or a lack of interest in the quality of their work.

An employee may have a situational performance deficiency if he or she only occasionally falls below the standard. For example, a person might make a mistake on a given day on a certain type of task, but this doesn’t carry over into their other work. A coach can skillfully intervene in such cases to stop the deficiency from becoming a chronic or more-global issue.

How Coaching Can Improve Performance

Performance deficiency coaching can improve performance if a coach is willing to skillfully discuss performance issues with employees. Employees also need to trust the coach enough to consider their advice and guidance. Many employees truly want to perform at their best, so they will welcome coaching a vast majority of the time if it is executed well.

For a coach to successfully help employees improve, he or she should engage in the following activities:

  • Build Positive Coaching Relationships: Coaches must nurture trust-based relationships with employees. They must see and appreciate the strengths of each employee and show those employees how to unlock their potential.
  • Talk Candidly About Behavior: Coaches must skillfully and objectively point out strengths and deficiencies. They should recognize people when they meet or exceed expectations, along with challenging employees to improve when they miss the mark.
  • Help Employees Understand the Purpose of Coaching: A coach must help others see how their behaviors affect their team, organization, and customers. When employees understand the impact that their underperformance has on others and the team mission, they will become more motivated to change and improve.
  • Create Plans with Employees: A coach should offer optimistic ideas and suggestions to start the journey to success with a specific plan of action. The coach can propose options for a great plan as well as draw out ideas from the other person along with discussing the benefits of making progress.

Why Is Performance Coaching Important?

Performance coaching is vital in today’s organizations because employee performance is the core ingredient in an organization’s success. Organizations are only able to serve customers, solve problems, and execute business plans through the high-quality job performance of their employees. You can’t grow the business if you don’t grow the people in your organization. Firms that unleash the motivation of their people are more competitive and are in a better position to outmaneuver competitors.

One of the central roles of leaders today is to coach their employees to meet or exceed the expectations of the organization’s stakeholders. Leaders must motivate employees and inspire people to deliver on the company’s value proposition, create competitive advantage, and continuously improve in order to serve customers better and improve the organization for the long term.

How Do You Address Performance Issues?

Great coaches often follow a standard procedure and inform people in advance when job performance or other important issues need to be addressed. This approach prevents people from being surprised or feeling like they are being singled out when the coaching conversation begins.

A good process of performance deficiency coaching involves the following steps:

  1. Explaining the performance problem at the earliest opportunity
  2. Sharing real-time data or evidence to support your case
  3. Offering encouragement and demonstrating your belief in the employee
  4. Helping the employee see how their behavior affects both themselves and others on the team
  5. Providing tools and resources that will help the employee improve
  6. Sharing specific ways in which the employee could improve his or her performance
  7. Helping the employee create a well-considered improvement plan that he or she will own and be accountable to follow
  8. Following up soon after a solution or agreement has been reached to help maintain accountability and ownership for the plan of action

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