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Unlocking the Benefits of Real Time Coaching

Traditional performance management is not effective if you're looking to nurture your employee's growth and development.


The traditional performance assessment process has been used in many organizations since at least the 1950's and it worked well for hierarchical organizations with long-tenured employees. The idea was that goal setting and forward-movement would result in promotions and/or pay increases or bonuses. Those who didn't hear from their managers in-between annual performance cycles could assume all was good.


Over the years, it's become a much loathed process. Disliked by manager and employees alike, it was often viewed as just a paper-pushing exercise.


HBR notes that more than a third of US companies have now abandoned traditional performance appraisals, recognizing that annual reviews had a significant limitation in that the emphasis was on an individual's past performance, rather than focusing on how they are performing today, or how the company needs them to perform in the months ahead.


The rigid structure and lack of frequent feedback is a major drawback of traditional performance models, and one that hinders employee engagement and motivation. Generic performance metrics that were often inaccurate or unfair, or confidence-sapping approaches like forced ranking, meant little in the long run to employees who were often left feeling undervalued and more like a number than an individual.


Business is changing at a faster pace than ever before; often the work that someone is doing today is different than what their focus was last year, and what it'll be next year - if they're even still working for you. Tenure in the tech sector is, on average, three years. On AVERAGE. In some cases, you may only have a year and a half to get the best from an individual.


Real-time coaching address the challenges of lack of immediacy and relevancy that traditional methods create. It allows managers to course-correct individuals in real-time when it matters most; it focuses on specific actions and today's performance, not something that happened months ago. Managers can provide clarity on expectations and provide the support employees need in the moment.


Keeping feedback positive and reinforcing wanted behaviors will help fuel performance going forward; providing factual corrective feedback will reduce errors and realign focus and energies where they need to be in order to meet the needs of a project or deliverable. And it doesn't have to be the sole job of managers; less hierarchical team structures benefit greatly from transparent and trustworthy feedback amongst the group and can have a significantly positive impact on engagement and performance.


Here's some tips for real-time coaching:

  1. Be timely and relevant - if you see it today, acknowledge it today, not next week. And do it often. Once a month isn't enough - coaching should be happening daily.

  2. Be factual and specific - saying ' you did a great job today' is less effectual than if you say 'I appreciated how you really worked to ensure everyone's voice was heard in today's meeting. Well done!'

  3. Make positive feedback public: share kudos you've given to individual's with the rest of the team to help reinforce wanted behaviors.

  4. Use coaching language, ask questions and opinions rather than give answers, and focus on the root of an issue, not the symptoms.

  5. Keep constructive feedback private. Make sure it's timely, but keep course-correcting discussions private.

  6. Encourage employees to learn from others, to share their successes with each other, and to ask for help when they need it.

  7. Use coaching as a launching point for skill and professional development. Ask your team members what they want to learn, what they are interested in taking on, and where they value your support the most.


Real time coaching offers a welcome departure from the limitations of traditional performance management and will build stronger, trusting relationships with your team. It is a powerful tool that can help unlock higher productivity, engagement, and overall organizational success.




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