You’ve got to know when to … COUNSEL THEM!

CoachingYou really have to know when to coach them or counsel your team members.

Many organizations tie individual goals to customer expectations. There is mounting evidence that team members are more likely to meet their performance standards if they are closely related to customer expectations. Team members also can focus more precisely on goals and have an opportunity to suggest insightful feedback on objectives. As a team leader you will want to use the appropriate process if a team member is experiencing difficulties.

Coaching or Counseling

The terms coaching and counseling are used interchangeably by many managers. The key differences is that coaching focuses on the developmental side of acquiring knowledge and skills to help the associate effectively perform the job. Counseling focuses on changing behavior. It can be preventive or corrective in nature.

Counseling is a skill used to correct or prevent behavioral problems. When a manager counsels an associate, it is to change current or past (corrective) behavior or it is to change behavior in preparation (preventive) for responsibilities and challenges that lie ahead. The end result in either case is to help the associate to perform more effectively on the job and to have more success achieving career goals.

It is designed to help an associate examine conditions, attitudes, feelings, perceptions and behavior patterns which may be hindering effective on the job performance and/or causing problems for the associate. If after several coaching attempts a problem still exists, it may be more than skill or knowledge related and the manager will have to shift roles from coach to counselor.

Effective counseling is not “doing” something to someone. It is helping a person do something to him or her. Effective counseling will cause a person to change their behavior not because they have to, but because they want to.

Steps in the Counseling Process

  • State the problem specifically and clearly
  • Really listen to the team members’ side
  • Clarify the problem and get agreement that a problem exists
  • Make sure the associate understands the problem
  • Know what you’re going to say and have facts available
  • Make sure the team member understands the problem.

There are legal risks in discussing causes of problems with associates. The cause is not important, only the behavior is important. Simply refer the associate to your Associate Assistance Program. Mutually discuss alternative solutions and agree on actions to be taken to solve the problem. Try to use the associate’s solution where possible. Agree on the actions the associate will take and the role you will play. Finally, set a follow-up meeting.

Communicate your belief in the associate’s ability to make the needed changes. Follow up and recognize any improvement. Prepare to move into the disciplinary process if two attempts at counseling have failed. Through effective counseling, a problem or marginal associate may be salvaged and she may again become a productive member of the organization.

Related Articles:   Coaching … how did I do?   and   When an Associate Struggles … COACH!

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James E. McClain is the author of Successful Career Development: A Game Plan, the book upon which some of our training programs are based. He has over 30 years' experience as a corporate HR executive, small business owner with ongoing experience in career development and as a college instructor. His educational background includes a B.S. and Masters degrees Education and Certification in Financial Planning. Our promise is that "you can pay more for training but you can not buy better training." The mission is to deliver the most effective and cost effective training and development programs.

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Posted in Coaching, Performance Management, Professional Skills

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