One of the most difficult things for farm managers/owners to master is coaching employees for optimal performance. Just like becoming an 85% free throw shooter on the basketball court, it takes practice. Once mastered you will see employees who understand goals and expectations more clearly, are more motivated, have ownership of their work, show greater responsibility, while maximizing their potential and problem solving ability. What you as an employer get is more productivity and lower turnover along with being freed of the day-to-day micromanagement of employees.
For this to happen it often requires a mindset change on the part of the employer via letting go of short-term control and constant micromanagement of employees. Coaching is not creating an anarchy but instead empowering employees to think and act on their own, making decisions as the need arises through knowledge gained by teaching and leadership. It does require effort, patience, and insight into learning what makes your employees tick.
We also need to remember how humans are different than machinery, plants and animals. Quoting Dr. Bob Milligan, Professor Emeritus Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, Cornell University (2014), “1. People can think, so they can make decisions. 2. People can speak, so they can ask questions, provide feedback and provide new ideas. 3. People have feelings, so our actions impact their motivation, attitudes and performance.” As an employer or manager/supervisor you are the team’s leader and you need to remember how your coaching of the team will help achieve the desired outcome.
Coaching is different than the evaluation process, which often is only done once a year. Coaching focuses on guidance and development of the employee by being proactive and positive and providing feedback. The employer must take the time to understand and determine the following:
- Each employee’s unique strengths and weaknesses.
- What it will take to help the employee overcome any barriers to their success.
- Finding out what motivates each individual employee and tailoring incentives toward them.
- Communicating direction towards achieving company goals.
- Helping employees understand the big picture.
- Helping employees understand their individual role in the company’s success.
When getting employees to improve their performance through coaching there are six critical steps involved.
- Describe the problem in a professional non-confrontational manner. This discussion needs to be positive and done in a non-threating manner. This is not the place to blame but instead uncover causes of the problem to work towards solutions.
- Ask the employee(s) help in solving the problem. In doing so you will get the employee(s) commitment via asking them to decide what to do to solve the problem. In return you are boosting the employee(s) self-esteem because you value their opinion and ideas.
- Discuss the causes of the problem. You need to remember this is a discussion about a performance problem, not about the employee’s attitude or personality. You need to remain friendly and relaxed throughout the conversation. Information should be gathered using open-ended questions which often start with words like “How”, “What”, “Who”, and “When” and cannot simply be answered yes or no.
- Identify and write down possible solutions. By writing down the solutions you have a reference point to follow what must be done, and if one does not work you can go to the next proposal. In doing so, involve the employee(s) in choosing the best solution and identify their role in the solution.
- Decide on a specific action to be taken by everyone. By identifying specific actions and responsibilities for the solutions and writing it down it will emphasize that the responsibility for improvement rests with the employee(s).
- Agree on a specific follow up date. By setting a date it sends a message to the employee(s) that solving the performance problem is important and it also tells the employee(s) that you want to know how well the actions agreed upon are being handled. It also allows for further follow up or tweaking to the problem if needed. As always end the discussion on a friendly note.
As you will see, how each employee meets the goals established is left up to the employee(s) and it gives personal ownership towards the goal or desired outcome.
In the end you have helped the employee(s) understand the “Why is it done this way? or Why a certain behavior is it needed?”. Along with enabling them to become a part of the solution or desired outcome. We need to remember that in a T.E.A.M. nobody goes it alone and that T-together, E-everyone, A-achieves, M-more. Using appropriate coaching methods with employees will help you as a manager to achieve the desired employee(s) performance you are looking for in your operation.