During my last transition over a tenured training team, one of my initial interactions with a member of my new team really struck a chord. I e-mailed a trainer with the subject, ‘Let’s Chat’ and to stop by the office when she could step away from the batch of new hires for 10 minutes. I expected to see her in a few hours or when the class was over for the day. Not even 15 minutes later she came into my office with a concerned look and asked, “What did I do, did I mess up?” I was stunned and had to take a step.
We’ve all been there… You ask to speak with an employee and their first reaction is ‘Am I in trouble?’ The coaching session has yet to even begin and their defenses are already up. How can you effectively coach when an employee is focused on defending themselves and not in the most receptive state? More specifically, how can you curb the immediate reaction of a ‘Principal’s Office’ mentality to reduce the overall coaching time while simultaneously increasing the return on the time invested? There is no simple answer, considering that most of us have been programmed since grade school to feel that coaching is a four-letter word. After all, no one was ever called the Principal’s office to receive a perfect attendance award.
Call it out: Many of us don’t notice our routine behavior and your employees are no different. Before going into any specifics of why you’re having a discussion, ask them why their reaction is what it is. She could not explain why she assumed there was an issue, but calling it out made her aware that her defenses were already building up.
Change the expectation: Make it a point to frequently have 3-5-minute discussions; provide their statistics, praise privately (and publicly), teach a new process, refresh information, review trends, or have them show you a ‘how to.’ Your employee’s receptiveness to coaching will increase the more they perceive that you are invested in their individual growth rather than only concerned when their performance is not meeting expectations. Within weeks of one scheduled and one random interaction per week, she would come in asking ‘where her performance was at?’ or ‘what are we learning today?’ After a few months, she was enthusiastically swinging by the office almost daily.
Jennifer is a life-long student, who is passionate for learning new concepts who also facilitates leadership development training initiatives, in that order.
Coming from over a decade in the call center industry, the last five specialized in the Training and Leadership Development, she is currently transitioning to freelancing opportunities to sustain a stronger work-life balance for her family.