- Forget The Sandwich Technique – I’m sure you have all learned the Sandwich feedback technique: give positive feedback, give corrective feedback and then close with more positive feedback. Giving positive feedback first is supposed to relax the recipient, let them know that they are a good person before you share the negative. And then closing with positive feedback should soften the blow. In theory a nice way to make it easier on your employees. In action, most of us perceive it as manipulative. Close your eyes and imaging a coaching session where your boss uses this technique on you. Can you see yourself standing there waiting for the shoe to drop as the first round of praise is shared? And then, just maybe, as the closing praise is delivered the thought “whatever!” crosses your mind because you can’t stop thinking about the criticism you just received. Robert Schwarz, organizational psychologist, shares in the Harvard Business Review that when asked how they would prefer to receive negative feedback “almost all of the direct reports say they want just the meat — no sandwich. If you give a feedback sandwich, you risk alienating your direct reports. In addition, they are likely to discount your positive feedback, believing it is not genuine.” A good coach builds trust, trust that allows the recipient to embrace their relationship. There is no trust in manipulative techniques.
- Training is NOT Coaching – Training is black and white. It’s how you do something. A trainer stands in front of students as an authority and pushes the information to them. Coaching sessions are about helping someone become better at something they have already learned through training. Coaching is identifying progress and then discussing ways to continue forward on the improvement path. Coaching helps connect the dots when how to apply the training was not clear. Coaching helps provide insight or direction when someone is not achieving the expected results. If you determine in a coaching session that additional training is a great way to continue progress, then make it an action item for follow up outside the coaching session. Keep the purpose of a coaching session clear to be effective.
- Make Room for 100% Positive Feedback – Whoa; did that make you take step back? What about that space on your feedback form where you are to fill in Weaknesses or Opportunities? I dare you to leave it blank. Coaching is about helping someone improve. Improvement often comes in baby steps. Consider how you would feel if you were working to be good at your job and no one noticed? That’s how it feels when you position something as a weakness. Instead look for the improvement and position the feedback as STRENGTH, highlighting the baby steps taken. As A WEAKNESS: “Sara you only achieved 35% of goal last week, you have a long way to go. Here are some things you need to change to make goal.” As A STRENGTH: “Sara, your effort is paying off; you are now at 35% of goal. That’s a big jump forward from last week when you were at 22% of goal. Let’s talk about a couple ideas that can help you keep the momentum.”
- Coaching is not Disciplinary, there is no Stick – Representatives who have a performance gap all fall into 1 of 3 categories. Those that Can’t Do the Job, Those that Won’t Do the Job and Those that Want to Learn to Do the Job. Because the first 2 groups are the most challenging we often forget that the overwhelming majority fall into that last category. Go into every coaching session assuming that everyone wants to do a good job and just needs a little help. But when they prove you wrong, don’t call the meeting a coaching session. When you sit down with someone to let them know that their job is in jeopardy that is not a coaching session. Handle the meeting with respect and with direct and clear conversation. Don’t disguise it in your coaching format.
- Quality is far more important than Quantity – You will get faster and better results if you focus on one change than a list of a dozen adjustments in your meeting. Sure, if someone could actually walk out of the meeting and make 12 lasting changes in one week they would improve at lightning speed. But that’s not how it really works. When the mind feels overwhelmed it tends to shut down in self-protection. James Clear, author of Transform Your Habits, shares the story of how the British cycling team won their first Tour de France ever in 2012 by looking for 1% improvements over 2 years as an example of how making a series of small changes can add up to big results. So the only question in a coaching session should be: “What one thing could you change this week that would move you forward just a little bit?” And then discuss the strategy.
Help your call center representatives succeed by keeping your coaching sessions simple and truly focused on coaching.
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