Six Steps to Effective Staff Coaching

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There are three reasons staff fall short when trying to perform at expected levels — they do not care, they do not agree or they do not know how to do their job.

When employees don't care, the answer is simple. Get them off your team! They simply are not a good fit for the company and its culture. When they don't agree, it's worth having a conversation and discussing their opinions. There may be times when team members in the trenches have valid input, resulting in change. If that's not the case, it still gives you, the leader, the chance to further explain why things need to be done in a certain way. The third instance, in which they don't know how, simply requires more coaching.

Coaching is critical
Effective coaching is a critical skill for leaders, as coaching in a positive way through clear communication is essential for success. It ensures that you get the most out of team members, leading to a great member experience. Successful coaching increases team member engagement, improves performance and enhances employee retention. Bad coaching, on the other hand, disengages team members, lowers morale and leads to high turnover.

Use this six-step method to coach team members in the event they are not performing at the highest level possible: 

1. Address the situation instantaneously, without embarrassing
It is essential to correct behaviors in the moment. If you don't, two detrimental effects may result.

First, coaching loses relevance as time passes. If you delay, your team member may not remember the situation well enough to improve behavior. Second, by not correcting undesirable behavior in the moment, it sends a message to other team members that the behavior is acceptable. After all, if you did not correct it, then it must be okay.

Most importantly, never coach in front of other staff or club members. It is embarrassing to team members and ultimately diminishes their engagement.

2. Explain, in detail, the desired behavior
Explanations of desired behaviors must be crystal clear. Clarity ensures that team members know exactly what is expected and how to deliver, leaving nothing to interpretation.

When behavior does not meet your standards, team members who felt they were doing what was expected all along might be surprised or discouraged to learn that, in fact, they weren't. After explaining an expected behavior or task, follow up with questions and check for understanding.

Ultimately, clarity builds trust.

3. Clarify the why
Team members are more apt to perform a task well when they know the reasoning behind it and agree with its necessity.

A high level of buy-in leads to consistency in delivering expected behaviors. Team members should consistently perform at high levels because they understand what they are doing and why it is important, not because they are afraid of getting in trouble or losing their job. This is especially true when they are not supervised.

4. Model the desired behavior
Always lead by example. This is an important trait of leadership. One of the worst things a leader can do is ask team members to do one thing while the leader does the opposite.

With coaching, it is always important to demonstrate the skill or task to team members. Again, this shows that you are willing to walk the walk. Team members respect that.

5. Role play, role play, role play
Once you have corrected the behavior, explained the logic behind it and modeled it, make sure to practice. Take time to role play. Role-playing allows the skill to build without pressure, leading to increased confidence.

First, have the team member play the role of the member while you play the role of the person you are coaching. Then flip it. This is the closest thing to the real situation and can prove very powerful. You can never role play too much.

6. Observe and coach some more
Once the skill or task has been trained properly, watch team members in action. Praise successes and positively tweak as needed.

Taking time to consistently coach shows team members that you are invested in their professional growth. When team members know you care enough to ensure their success, they become significantly more engaged and perform at higher levels.

Sample scenario
Let's take a look at this in practice. You want the phone answered at your facility in the following way, "It's a great day at Stevenson Fitness! This is Chris. How may I help you?" You happen to be by the welcome desk when you hear your staff member answer the phone, "Stevenson Fitness. How can I help you?"

Step one, you pull the staff member off the floor and tell them you would like to review the proper way to answer the phone. Step two, go over in detail, with absolute clarity, the script that you use to answer the phone. Step three, you explain the why. "The reason we use that particular script is because it differentiates us as a facility. It is unique, expresses our enthusiasm as a brand, and creates a memorable first impression for a first-time caller." Step four, you take the next call and answer the phone exactly the way you explained. Step five, you pretend to call in and have the team member pretend to answer the phone. After doing that several times, you let the team member take an actual call. Finally, in step six, you praise what they did well and correct any mistakes.

Using this approach to coaching is very effective because it is specific, highly engaging, positive and thorough. You are demonstrating care for your team member as well as their growth and development. Give it a try. You will love the results you get!

This article originally appeared in the September 2020 issue of Athletic Business with the title "Communicate expectations to staff in six easy steps." Athletic Business is a free magazine for professionals in the athletic, fitness and recreation industry. Click here to subscribe.


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