How to Prevent Re-Coaching Employees

Do you ever get frustrated coaching an employee on the same issue over and over again? Read this to prevent re-coaching.

At one time, Andrew Carnegie was the wealthiest man in America. He came to America from his native Scotland when he was a small boy, did a variety of odd jobs, and eventually ended up as the largest steel manufacturer in the United States. At one time, he had 43 millionaires working for him. In those days, a millionaire was a rare person.

A reporter asked Carnegie how he had hired 43 millionaires. Carnegie responded that those men had not been millionaires when they started working for him but had become millionaires as a result.

The reporter's next question was, "How did you develop these men to become so valuable to you that you have paid them this much money?" Carnegie replied that men are developed the same way gold is mined. When gold is mined, several tons of dirt must be moved to get an ounce of gold, but one doesn't go into the mine looking for dirt--one goes in looking for the gold.

Do you even find yourself sitting on a mountain of gold and feeling poor?

Coaching is how you mine your team's gold.

Inspiring leaders coach good team members to become better people. 

They help them build better lives for themselves and others. They build their team from the inside out ... inspiring excellence at work and in life. In the crunch of daily demands, you can forget a fundamental law of leadership: If your team is successful then you are successful.

The coaching challenge in today's mega-busy workplace is that people only remember 20 percent of what they hear.

Why is this percentage so low? Let's say you are hurried and swing by a team member's cube and say, "Ryan, please make sure you use the new format on the month-end sales report ... thanks." Even if Ryan is a pretty sharp guy, what do you think the chances are he will hear your request accurately, remember it, recall it accurately when it's relevant, interpret your instructions as you intended, and then perform the task satisfactorily?

When we look at it this way, 20 percent retention sounds pretty good, doesn't it?

If you are coaching a team member on the same thing repeatedly, before you get frustrated with them, ask yourself, "Am I inspiring better performance or am I just checking this off my list?" "Is there a way I can change my approach to get a better outcome?"

The scale below puts the 20% retention into perspective. Employees generally remember:

  • 90% of what we both say and do (simulating the real thing, doing the real thing)
  • 70% of what we say (participating in a discussion, giving a talk)
  • 50% of what we hear and see (watching a movie, looking at an exhibit, watching a demonstration)
  • 30% of what we see (looking at pictures)
  • 20% of what we hear (instructions)
  • 10% of what we read (memos, books)

It only takes a few minutes extra to move up this scale to improve coaching effectiveness and prevent re-coaching.

For example, instead of giving a team member a new policy or process to read (10 percent retention), ask her to read it then get back to you later today to explain her interpretation of it and what changes she needs to make as a result. Now she is at 70 percent retention (of what you say). That's a good return for your invested time.

Coaching is a pay-me-now or pay-me-later leadership proposition.

Take a shortcut and you will be saying the same thing to the same team member next week--no fun for either of you. Do it correctly, and you inspire higher performance and competence ... and competence builds confidence. Team confidence is a vital asset for any leader who wants to elevate performance.

Inspiring leaders prevent re-coaching by investing the time to coach right the first time.

By LEE COLAN | Founder, L Group
Lee Colan is founder of the L Group, a consulting firm that equips and inspires leaders at every level. He is a leadership adviser, presenter of practical ideas, and a Thinkers 50 nominee for Top Management Thinker.

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