ICMI Featured Contributor article; January 09 2018
One of the greatest ways we build trust with
employees is through review and discussion of their work performance. Our fairness, honesty, courage and advocacy
during coaching contributes to our credibility, which affects employees'
engagement, performance, and retention.
It's hard to be direct and courageous when it comes to discussing
peoples' work behaviors though, and there are several ways we can fail at it
Trust-Destructor #5 - Inconsistent or Absent
As humans, we like and trust people who like
and trust us, so we miss a really easy trust-generating opportunity when we're
not consistently having developmental discussions. We naturally connect when talking with
employees about strengths and challenges, and without that interpersonal exchange,
or if too infrequent, we're saying through our actions that relationships and
performance don't matter.
Sometimes coaching doesn't happen because leads
or supervisors aren't skilled enough to navigate development discussions, which
can lead to avoidance behaviors like procrastination or cancellation. Other times coaching gets missed because of
staffing levels and call volume. And in
many cases, coaching activities are obscured by lack of visibility into whether
it's being done or not – how frequently, by and for whom, and on what
topics. In all of these instances
though, coaching is an 'optional' activity, which sends an unfortunate message
to team members about the importance we place on spending time with them and discussing
their contributions. McKinsey &
noted years ago that front-line managers at best practice companies were
spending 60-70% of their time on the floor, much of it in individual coaching.
Trust-Destructor #4 - Not Providing
Historical Reference for Commitments, History and Progress
Professor and Adult Learning pioneer, Jack
Mezirow, said, "A defining condition of being human
is that we have to understand the meaning of our experiences."
In other words,
as learners we need to be able to review and reflect on coaching conversations
- topics, examples, commitments, timelines, and progress. If that information isn't stored and made
accessible to employees, then coaching experiences are simply in-the-moment
events characterized by 'he said-she said' perspectives of what happened and
what was agreed to. Despite the coaching
time investment, the inability to refer back, review and reflect, results in
limited learning and minimal developmental value, and missed opportunity for
building greater trust and engagement.
Trust-Destructor #3 - Not Following-Through
or Not Recognizing Effort and Progress
Supervisors suffer from the lack of
visibility into coaching history too.
First, supervisors can be crippled from a time efficiency perspective –
each having to expend their own effort and methods to track and organize
coaching topics, commitments, and follow-up items. Second, they suffer from a coaching
effectiveness perspective – each having to depend on those self-sourced methods
to enable them to connect themes and notice
progress from one conversation to the next.
to work on something, and then never mentioning it again, is the quickest way
to show them that their performance doesn't matter, and that what we ask has no
consequence. And coaching on individual
instances of opportunity instead of reserving crucial coaching conversations
for true trends, is another unfortunate practice that dilutes coaching significance
and damages trust.
Trust-Destructor #2 - Not Providing Effective
I remember working with a frontline manager
who once asked me, "Why would I give them kudos for doing something they
are supposed to be doing?" Human
beings seek to please and crave praise, so when we acknowledge what someone is
doing right, we're telling them what we enjoy and want them to continue. It's positive reinforcement and at its
simplest, it means that what we appreciate, they're more likely to repeat. (Not many people will continue to do a thing
ongoing, that no one ever notices!)
How we acknowledge
behavior is also key though; 'good job' and 'thanks' are non-descript and
overused, so when said, they don't create any feeling and therefore don't build
any emotional or relational value. To
acknowledge someone's actions or behavior with feeling is 'praise', and to
provide effective praise requires that a comment be both specific, and genuine,
in order to be felt - and it's when it's felt, that it inspires in people the
desire to do the behavior again. It's a
positive upward spiral that works really well in tandem with positive
expectations. (That being said, we have
to be careful not to effusively praise in every instance, else it becomes over-saturated
and can likewise damage trust).
Trust-Destructor #1 - Not Evaluating Coaching
Even when contact centers expect coaching and
ensure time for it, the number one way to destroy employee trust and engagement
is to not evaluate and develop the quality of the coaching being
delivered. We QA CSRs on their customer
interactions, but are far less likely to QA coaches on their coaching
interactions. Why is that?
We tend to believe that since managers know
what needs to be done and how to do it that they also know how to coach, but
coaching requires different skills than managing, and most people aren't
inherently good at coaching aptitudes and skills. (HBR.org; Jack Zenger
& Joseph Folkman). Few contact centers have skilled coaches
dedicated to evaluating and developing front-line leaders' coaching
effectiveness, but that is exactly what's needed to stop sacrificing employee
trust and avoid breeding increasing employee frustration, confusion, anxiety,
dissatisfaction and ultimately, attrition.