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What Is Performance Coaching (And Should You Be Doing It)?

A track runner on the starting blocks

What do we mean by ‘performance coaching’?

Well, the term reflects the way business coaching has changed.

It has moved away from being regarded as a way of helping underachievers get better.

And it is now about helping people who are already performing well improve further and achieve their potential.

Rather than a remedial activity, think of it like an Olympic athlete or top sports star having a coach to help them make further improvements.

Alternatively, to borrow a description used by expert business coach Tienie Loubser, view performance coaching as one of coaching’s “multiple tentacles”.

“There is life coaching, wellbeing coaching, executive coaching, business coaching and ‘where to start coaching’,” he told me.

“The topic is determined by the individual’s needs.

“There are techniques people bring that are focused on performance, and they call that performance coaching.

“Improved sales, better interactions in meetings, better presentations, influencing without authority and creating a presence, are all performance-related elements.

“I like to call coaching ‘coaching’, whether you are talking to an executive about their thinking from a strategic perspective or whether you are coaching someone on creating better influence.

We have created these tags to put coaching into a particular bracket so we know what the parameters or specialities are.”

We cover performance coaching in our new online ILM Level 5 course in effective coaching and mentoring. But when did perceptions about coaching begin to change?

Tienie said: “The transition happened around 2010. And it happened because people don’t like being told what to do.

“Initially, coaching was about fixing something or showing people how to do something differently. But that is mentoring.

“As soon as it became an empowering activity, where there was an autonomy offered and the person being coached had freedom of thinking and solving, that is when the change happened.

“I do think there is still some legacy remedial coaching going on. But it should be called mentoring.”

I wondered if that perception change made it easier or harder to persuade people of the benefits of coaching. If you are considered to be performing well, you may not think you need any more help.

“The nice thing about someone wanting to get better is that they will request coaching,” Tienie said.

“What often happens is that businesses offer coaching to their star performers. I often think it should be offered to the whole group because there could be some mid-zone players that will shift into the superstar space.

“And there are some superstars who will drop out and who can’t keep up with the pace.

“Also, when you offer coaching to say a group of let’s say six or seven top performers in the business, I would think that 20 to 30 per cent will pay it lip service because they don’t think they need it.

“You can usually pick this up in the second or third coaching session. In the past, I have indicated that I don’t want to keep coaching these people.

“But as soon as you take it away, they want it.”

For Tienie, performance coaching works best when aimed at team leaders rather than individual team members.

“I would much rather coach someone on how they manage the performance of their team than coaching the team on its performance,” Tienie said.

“Otherwise, I am performance managing. And it becomes a blur between performance management and coaching.

“You potentially get into a situation where the team are telling you about all the things they need to do the job better. What are you going to do with that? If you are not careful, you will fall into a he said / she said conversation.”

Tienie continued: “What is happening with coaching now is that it is more of an ‘in the moment’ affair, rather than prescribed sessions over a series of months.

“As a line manager in a business, it is much more about ad-hoc coaching where you see the need. There is also performance management and expectation setting coming in.

“So, coaching is a part of all the toolsets you have in your management style.”

Let’s put all this into practice with a performance coaching model we use during our business coaching, which we discuss in more detail during our new online ILM Level 5 course in effective coaching and mentoring.

It starts with Originate: What is the starting point? What does an expert look like in your work? What are your performance indicators? What are you doing to show you should be in that position?

Then it moves to Envisage: What does consistently exceeding expectations look like for you? Have you got the determination and stamina to get there?

The model then moves to Measurement: What does consistently exceeding expectations look like from a measurement perspective? How can we measure the accountability from the person being coached to get there? How can we measure the accountability of the business supporting you and want you to get there? What support are they offering you?

And then we look at Productive Priorities: At this stage, there is no room for not delivering. So, what productive priorities do we need to put into place to make it work? What is your immediate next step? What is your focus area? What do you need to put into place?

The next time you see that person again, put them through the same steps.

Tienie said: “Taking them through the same steps again will make sure you are moving them to a place where they are consistently exceeding expectations.”

And that’s a result that benefits the individual, their team and the business.

Find out more about the coaching skills your leaders need on our new online ILM Level 5 course in effective coaching and mentoring.

The BCF group has been helping organisations develop their talent, inspire their people and overcome obstacles and challenges for the past 25 years.

We deliver training that makes a difference. Find out more about our business coaching, management training and interpersonal skills options.

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