5 stages to consider for effective performance coaching

Wouldn’t it be great if you could recognise and meet where your staff is on the spectrum of change to help them improve on their work performance? However, before delving into the five stages to consider for effective performance coaching, we need to determine the reasons for underperformance.

Is your staff underperforming because they feel as though they are being punished for performing? Do they feel that they are rewarded for good performance by having more work piled on them? Perhaps your team members are unwilling to take on challenging and risky assignments as they feel that the punishment for failure overrules all reason to do it for the rewards of success. Or are they unsure on how to go about carrying out the task or lacks the ability to do it? And so on.

As you speak to your staff regarding the issue at hand, frame the conversation to focus on one area or issue. This includes listing the issue to be discussed and the expected outcome which both the manager and staff are aiming for. Also determine the time frame for the discussion and agreements on confidentiality.

Consciously suspend your judgement and maintain a curious mindset as you begin the conversation. Your goal in the coaching conversation is to help your employees gain a different awareness of and insight into the performance issue as awareness precedes change. With the new awareness, the coachees would have an idea of the possible solutions that can be considered.

If your organisation has yet to embrace a coaching culture,  fret not, you can still engage in a conversation with these stages in mind.

Precontemplation Stage: “I’m not considering a change”

When your staff is at the precontemplation stage, they are not considering making a change in their behaviour or attitude because of denial, obliviousness or resignation. If your coachees are in this stage, invite them to begin thinking about change.

Ask them questions like:

  • “How do you see this situation? What is happening?”
  • “What is working well?”
  • “What makes it challenging?”
  • “How might you have contributed to this situation?”
  • “How might others see the situation?”

Here’s a tip: give them time after the session for the information to sink in.

Contemplation Stage: “I’m considering making a change but I’m not committed to it.”

At the contemplation stage, the staff weighs the benefits and costs of the behaviour as well as the value and costs of the change. If you’re meeting your staff at this stage, help them to examine the costs and benefits of the change.

Ask questions such as:

  • “What are the consequences if the situation doesn’t change?”
  • “Tell me more about the business costs of this issue.”
  • “Imagine that a year has passed and nothing has changed. What would that be like for you?”

At the end of this phase, the coachees can make a decision to either change or not.

Preparation Stage: “I’m committed to changing and I’m beginning the process of change)

This stage is where the employee actively investigates possible ways to change. When your team member is at this stage, address the barriers to them engaging in the forward movement towards the change.

For instance, ask them:

  • “What do we need to keep in mind as we move forward on this issue?”
  • “What challenges do you think you would need to overcome?”
  • Followed by “What support do you need?” and
  • “Who can you get the support from?”

The support might be in the form of undergoing training or mentoring sessions. If the former is engaged, be sure to follow-up on how they will use them to help them improve their performance.

Action Stage: “I’m full on board with a change agenda.”

The action stage is where the employee commits to an action plan and makes is decisive to make the change. If this is where you are meeting them, help them to plan the action path and be generous with your affirmations for the steps taken.

Behavioural change will take time, effort, practice and reinforcement so be sure to be available to affirm them and give them feedback.

Maintenance Stage: “I’m continuing with my well-established patterns after six months of action.”

At this stage, employees are maintaining a new behaviour over a course of time, maybe six months, and follows through with ongoing milestones and measurement. Be sure to continue to praise them.

What happens if there’s a relapse and the employee reverts to their previous non-performance behaviour or feels frustrated and demoralised? As their coach-manager, engage in a problem solving discussion and be encouraging while re-engaging in efforts to move your coachees toward realistic goals. Ask them what other support they would need to meet their goals.

Moving ahead in performance coaching

Knowing where each of your team member is on the five stages will help you to know what is possible when exploring the desired state of performance and the paths that can be explored to get to the desired state.

Remember, people will not change until they feel a need to change. Your role as a coach-leader is to help your coachees gain an insight into their performance issue and let them decide if there is a need for change. With this new insight they will be able to, on their own, propose possible solutions in order to move forward (or not).

Before your next coaching session with your staff, analyse the real reason for their shortcomings in their performance. If you’re unsure of the real reason, how could you become more sure as you meet with each of them?

Having these five stages of change in mind, which stage do you think they are at? Then, think about what your focus would be during the coaching session as you move ahead in the performance coaching journey together with your staff.


©Published by Lifeskills Institute Pte Ltd

Lifeskills Institute is the strategic partner of Zenger Folkman for Singapore and Malaysia. Our Chief Enabling Officer, Ian Tan is a Master Facilitator certified by Zenger Folkman.

Zenger Folkman is a strengths-based leadership development company helping leaders elevate their people and organisations. Co-founders Dr. Jack Zenger and Dr. Joe Folkman utilise empirical data and behavioural evidence to help leaders become extraordinary.

Lifeskills Institute conducts The Extraordinary CoachTM Workshop  where participants will master the F.U.E.L. coaching model that can lead to a profound impact on those whom you are coaching. You will be equipped  to empower your coachees make better decisions on their own. And you will get to see how this empowerment and process correlates to levels of commitment, satisfaction, retainment and profitability. Participants will also receive a self-survey which measures their coaching behavioural preferences and equip themselves with the toolset for effective coaching.



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