Human resources management—and everyone else in the upper levels of a company—are charged with helping employees do their best. One of the ways to bring about improved performance is coaching.

What is coaching? Let’s turn to the words of one of the most celebrated coaches of all time, Vince Lombardi:

“They call it coaching, but it is teaching. You do not just tell them…you show them the reasons.”

Developing your employees, and motivating them to do more than merely show up and collect a paycheck, is important to your organization’s success. Sure, it’s a good idea to reward success and effort with bonuses, non-money rewards like an extra paid day off, and other things. And sure, you have to react to failures and shortcomings with discipline (read our blog on progressive discipline for more on that tricky subject). However, offering incentives and issuing punishments only take you so far down the road to performance improvement. If your people are only doing the bare minimum motivated solely by getting these rewards and steering clear of punishment, are they truly invested in your company? Not really. The real way to get them invested in your company’s growth is to invest in their growth—and the best way to accomplish that is through coaching.

Coaching is an approach to personnel management that seeks to encourage employee development by checking, improving and tracking their knowledge, skills and ability. It’s more than mere training, which is task-oriented. Coaching, on the other hand, is people oriented—because each person you encounter is different, it’s important to focus on the individual when coaching. Each employee you coach has different strengths and weaknesses, so each coaching session must be different. That can be tricky, but a savvy human resources management pro can navigate the field and score a success. Here’s three tips on how to win:



Coaching shouldn’t be a lecture—then, it becomes a one-sided game and the employee checks out. They feel less like a participant in their own development and more like they’re on the sidelines. Instead, work to give the employee ownership in their development. Ask questions and seek input, instead of issuing edicts. For example, instead of rattling off ways a less-than-efficient worker could make better use of her time, ask ways she thinks she could improve. Then, after the employee has had time to work toward improving, meet with the employee and, again, ask how they think they’ve progressed.

Include everyone
Instead of only singling out under-performing employees for coaching, make sure everyone participates. That’s for a few reasons. One, it’s good to stress that everyone—even the star achievers—can find ways to improve. Secondly, if only the less-than-stellar employees are coached, then coaching could begin to be perceived as a punishment, something to be avoided. Ideally, your employees should see coaching as a pat on the back and encouragement to do better, not as punishment to be avoided.

Set goals
In addition to being a path for an employee’s growth, coaching can tee your workforce up to meet the future needs of your company. In coming months and years, your company may expand, take on new technologies, or develop in other ways that require additional skills and knowledge. Include goals to take on new skills, and develop their current abilities, in your coaching plan. Turnover happens, and while it’s impossible to bar your coached employees from taking those newly developed skills and departing to another company, coaching can also give them good reasons to stay. If you show (rather than just tell) an employee that their growth matters to the company, you’re giving them a reason to stay on the team.

If you’d like some advice on how to provide solid coaching, contact Human Elements—we’d love to help you with your game plan.