The Coaching Dilemma - Part 2

Questions This Guidance Answers: 
  • Which of my directs should I coach the most?
  • Why choose that direct to coach?
  • Which directs don't I coach?

This cast continues our discussion on whom to coach and develop on your team with your marginal time.

If you only have a limited amount of time, whom should you coach? This is a question we get all the time. What if I've got a weak performer? Don't I have to work to get him up to speed? What do I do when the time I spend with a weak performer cuts into my time with everyone else?

These are really good questions. They address the inherent challenges of growing the productivity of your team, AND the issue of there never being enough time to do it. So, before we go any further, let's be clear: if these are the questions you're asking yourself, you're thinking the right way and wrestling with the right kinds of questions.

The problem with these questions is that if the average manager asks her peer a couple of cubes over, and that fellow manager really doesn't know what HE is doing either.

So let's answer the Coaching Dilemma problem once and for all.

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I have some problems with

I have some problems with the otherwise interesting cast:

1) The mathematical "proof" was based on an assumption that the same amount of managerial effort would be required to get N% improvement from the four employees.  I don't buy that point blank. Now, it may be true, and maybe with high performers it takes *less* effort to get N%, but that was all assumed, not discussed.

2) The equation is missing the fact that time Alpha spends with the manager is time spent not doing work, which has enormous value, especially for Alpha. In the field of software engineering, that has huge impact, as it's not just the time, but focus as well.

3) Personal preference: Too much time on "not Delta" and not enough on "why not Bravo". I know the same argument applies, but I think there are a lot of interesting subtleties between Alpha and Bravo - some of which depends on the nature of the job and Alpha and Alpha's manager's grade level - that would be worth spending time on rather than just the Delta discussion. I know Delta got most of the discussion as your premise is that most managers err that way.

In any case, as always there were plenty of nuggets of truth in there to chew on.

Coach Alphas & Bravos ... I totally agree ...

I LOVE the "Coaching Dilemma" podcasts for a number of reasons, and I totally agree with Mark.

(1) I teach coaching classes and have been emphasizing for years that most managers spend their time on the low "Charlies" and Deltas and would be benefit more by focusing on Alphas and Bravos.

(2)  Recent data (Corporate Leadership Council I think) reminds us that as economics improve the employees demonstrating high performance have somewhere around a 25% chance of leaving the company.  "Average" employees on the other hand have about a 3% chance.  (Stats from memory so don't hold me to them.)  Other data is indicating that morale and engagement levels are lowest among those demonstrating high performance, and I believe without coaching they do have the highest risk of leaving.

(3)  The "managerial economics" makes so much sense and provides me with other arguments to include when I get the "yes but" responses.  Employees demonstrating low performance deserve coaching to  help them improve IF they are genuinely committed to improvement, follow through on action plans, etc.  However, I often see that the "deltas" are roadies (retired on active duty and I have no military background) who frankly have little if any intention of improving.

(4) Coach up, counsel out ... I think there comes a time when managers benefit from recognizing that there is little ROI associated with coaching deltas and can move to performance improvement (progressive discipline) plans.  Why keep doing the same thing hoping for different results?

(5) Not necessarily a reason I love the cast but since I'm numbering, I keep going. It is important to partner with HR and understand organizational/corporate policies and procedures around managing/coaching the deltas.  I've only lived in HR for 9 years (delivering coach training) but I've never heard an HR professional suggest dedicating more coaching time to low performance is a good investment.  But, nine years ... what do I know. :-)



Thanks for this cast guys - it's been a little while since I've had "A-ha!" moments listening to your casts but this one had plenty of them.

Lately, I've been really wrestling with how better to coach and been a little disheartened.   Thanks for giving me a bit of focus and approach to how to handle things.