Cheat Sheet

Performance Coaching (UK Edition)

From Performance Coaching For Dummies by Gladeana McMahon, Averil Leimon

Put simply, performance coaching means getting the best out of people at work. Here are some essential tips and pointers to keep close to hand as you strive to coach performance in your workplace.

Setting SMART Goals in Performance Coaching

One aspect of successful performance coaching is ensuring that the goals set by the individual are clear, behavioural and realistic. Make sure that the goals you set are:

  • Specific. Ensure that a goal is stated in specific terms (for example, ‘To make a presentation to the board at the next quarterly meeting regarding the advantages of a global strategic response’).

  • Measurable. Ensure that the goal can be measured (either the individual will make the presentation concerned or not).

  • Achievable. Check to see that the goal can be achieved in the time available and whether the goal is within the individual’s ability (for example, there are two months before the next board meeting so there is enough time to prepare the information required and your colleague has given presentations before – and has the skill to deliver).

  • Relevant. The goal should be relevant to success in a specific area. Ensuring the goal is important to it encourages commitment (in other words, this presentation will open the way to position the department and your colleague more favourably).

  • Time Bound. Check the timeframe that the goal needs to be achieved in (for example, the date of the next quarterly board meeting).

Asking the Right Performance Coaching Questions

As a performance coach, you will find yourself posing a number of questions, and you have a variety of different styles of questions at your disposal:

  • Closed questions: ‘Do you like her?’ Closed questions are good for helping people to focus but don’t encourage people to open up because only a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ is likely to be the answer.

  • Hypothetical questions: ‘What do you think he would say if you told him?’ This type of question can be useful because you’re asking the person to use his or her imagination. Doing so encourages someone to think beyond his or her current situation and into the realm of possibility.

  • Open questions: ‘What steps have you already taken to change your situation?’ Open questions help people to consider options and are the most useful form of questioning.

You may find the following questions useful when coaching for change.

  • How do you know that the information you have is accurate?

  • What’s happening at work for you at the moment?

  • What other factors are relevant?

  • What is the other person’s perception of the situation?

  • What have you tried so far?

  • How do you feel about the feedback you’ve received?

  • What can you do to change the situation?

  • What alternatives to that approach do you have?

  • Would you like some suggestions from me?

  • What are the benefits and pitfalls of these options?

  • Would you like to choose an option to act on?

  • What possibilities for action do you see?

  • What are the next steps?

  • When will you take the next step?

  • What may get in the way?

  • What support do you need?

  • How and when will you enlist the support you’ve identified?

  • How can we overcome the obstacle you’ve identified?

Questions for the Different Stages of Performance Coaching

Applying the right questions to the appropriate times at which to ask them is a key skill required for successful performance coaching. Use this table to guide you.

Stage Sample questions Purpose
Stage 1: Agreeing Aims What are you trying to achieve? Clear objectives
When are you going to do it? Agreed dates
How will you know you have succeeded? Measurement
Stage 2: Awareness What is happening now? Clear picture of current actions
What have you done so far? Review of relevant achievements, however slight
What are the consequences? Effect of current actions
What do you want to be different? Where your colleague is and where he wants to be
Stage 3: Analysis What can you change? Identify possibilities
What are the options? Broaden vision
How can you change it? Seek solutions
What are the risks? Evaluate choices
What are the barriers? Obstacles to overcome
Stage 4: Action What are you going to do? Clear action steps
Who is going to do what? Define responsibilities
When are you going to do it? Agree milestones
What do you need to help you? Determine support
Stage 5: Assessment What actually happened? Clarify outcomes
Was this what you wanted? Evaluate degree of success
What have you gained from this experience? Discoveries made
How can you improve? Establish further potential

Achieving Excellence in Performance Coaching

There are secrets for making a success of your endeavours in all fields. Here are the ten commandments to hold dear when striving for coaching excellence:

  • Know who you are

  • Communicate well

  • Work co-operatively

  • Be credible

  • Give others credit

  • Aim for results

  • Give up the easy stuff and tackle the difficult things

  • Consult with others

  • Develop influence

  • Get things done

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