How do I coach an employee?

The term coach is associated with on-the-job training, but the role of coach involves more than training, albeit that is part of the responsibility. Besides training, as coach, you are responsible for:

- Acting as a role model.

- Hiring the best employees.

- Creating a work culture in which employees have reason to be motivated.

- Clarifying expectations—both micro-expectations associated with particular jobs and macro-objectives tied to the organization's overall strategy and mission.

- Providing feedback on your employees' behavior that will put them on the right performance track before counseling is needed.

- Providing the training and resources employees need to improve their performance.

- Praising, praising, and praising some more to reinforce positive performance.

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As a coach, you will meet with employees, as you do in your counseling role, but your intent is to provide feedback to help your employee raise the level of his or her performance. Your goal is to make that average or good worker into an outstanding worker by looking, with him or her, at mistakes as learning opportunities.

Is there any best way to conduct the year-end performance appraisal interview?

The year-end appraisal meeting is similar to the other quarterly meetings in that you discuss performance and chart progress toward achieving objectives. But the conclusions at this meeting will determine the employee's rating for the year, as well as salary increase, bonus, or other financial reward. So it will demand more preparation to prepare you for any objections to your conclusions. There will also be forms to complete.

Both of these responsibilities are made simpler with your documentation in hand. Using the documentation, compare the employee's performance to the standards or goals set. Use the language of the goals to show a clear relationship between the work done, goals, and ratings given.

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Before your meeting with the employee, review the appraisal form and documentation. Since you and your employees have been meeting throughout the year to discuss performance, they shouldn't be surprised about the conclusions you reached, right? Not so. An employee may suddenly become aware of the impact on salary of the rating given, or realize that the assessment will become a part of his permanent record and become upset, even refuse to sign the document. Stars whose ratings aren't as high as expected may even balk.

Faced with disagreement over ratings, you should not compromise to avoid litigation. However, hear the employee out. There may be cause to reassess the performance. If you do decide to revise what you wrote, edit in the employee's presence to assure him that you have revised the appraisal. If you still feel strongly that your assessment is correct as is, then say so and provide evidence for your case.

That's usually enough to quiet most employees. If you have regularly met with your employees and provided ongoing feedback, maintained documentation about performance, and used that documentation to prepare logical arguments for your assessments, most staff members will acknowledge the fairness of your assessment by signing the form.

What do I do when an employee disagrees with something I have written on the performance appraisal? If I accept their argument, can I upgrade their assessment?

If an employee disagrees with your assessment—even refuses to sign the appraisal form—don't become upset. Explain that the signature does not represent agreement with the evaluation. It only signifies that the employee has seen the appraisal, discussed it, and been given a copy.

If the employee wishes to refute your assessment, suggest he write a memo so it can be attached to the appraisal when you submit it to the Human Resources Department. This may not be enough for some employees. They may demand to go over your head, to your manager, to refute your evaluation. In that event, tell them to feel free to do so. If you have fulfilled your performance management responsibilities, you have no reason to be worried. Prepare a written record of your year-end appraisal meeting with the employee, attach it to the appraisal form, and submit it to Human Resources.

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One of two things will happen when an employee disagrees with your assessment. Either he will be able to persuade your manager or the Human Resources Department to change the assessment or he will be notified that a meeting with him is needed to discuss the issue.

If a meeting is held, you will be present. Don't be defensive. In many instances, such meetings are held simply to give the employee an opportunity to put his case before another person within the organization. If you have sufficient documentation for your assessment, you should be able to justify your assessment. If such meetings say anything, it is that you need to perfect your ability to put in writing your assessments. Evaluations should be so written that a third person—either your manager or someone from the Human Resources Department—is clear about the standard set, the level of performance, and the assessment based on that work.

If your assessment is rejected and the employee gets a higher rating than you gave, don't let that prompt you in the future from going easier on employees—or, in retaliation, tougher.

How can I use the evaluation to set employee development plans for the next year?

At the same time that you share your year-end written appraisal of an employee, lay the groundwork for the next year's performance by working out an employee-development plan.

Too often managers talk only about the financial consequences of the employee's performance and just pay lip service to the developmental side of the appraisal process. But the year-end meeting is an excellent time to discuss skill weaknesses evident in the employee's previous year's performance and create action plans to strengthen these areas.

Employee development is for outstanding performers, too. If an employee has consistently exceeded expectations and done so for several years, she is probably frustrated with the lack of opportunities for promotion or new challenges. This is the time, then, to discuss training programs she can use to develop skills that could increase employability.

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This meeting shouldn't be the only time during the year that you address these issues. At every quarterly review, be ready to work out development programs with employees to minimize any shortcomings responsible for their falling behind in the goals set.

At the development meeting, however, most of the time should be spent, in your role as coach, discussing how the worker can improve performance or develop skills that will enable him to advance to a position of greater responsibility.

If opportunities for promotion don't exist within your organization, or are of little interest to the employee, then you may want to discuss new assignments that would challenge the employee. Or if the employee is not interested in new responsibilities, discuss ways he or she can operate more independently.

For outstanding employees, your mutual goal is to answer the question, ''What can we do to help you accomplish more?'' For other employees, the goal is another question: ''How can we make it easier for you to meet and exceed this year's goals?''

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