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Coaching Vs Managing: How to Coach an Employee

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    In the workplace, it is common for managers to focus on day-to-day activities and projects, ensuring that they are completed on time and within budget. While this is an essential aspect of management, it is equally important to coach and develop employees to become better leaders. Coaching is different from managing, and it is necessary for managers to know when it is appropriate and necessary to coach an employee.

    While coaching is essential for all employees, women may require special help and a different approach. This is because women often face unique challenges in the workplace, including biases and stereotypes. Both men and women managers need to know how to coach women effectively.

    Coaching vs Managing

    Coaching and managing are two different approaches to supervising employees, each with its unique benefits and challenges. Understanding the differences between coaching and managing can help managers choose the most effective approach for each employee and situation.

    Managing involves overseeing the day-to-day activities of employees, setting goals, and monitoring progress. The focus is on ensuring that employees meet the company’s expectations and achieve their performance targets. Managing is necessary for ensuring that employees understand their roles and responsibilities, providing feedback, and addressing performance issues.

    On the other hand, coaching involves helping employees develop their skills, knowledge, and abilities to achieve their potential. Coaching is about working with employees to identify their strengths and weaknesses, setting goals for improvement, and providing ongoing support and feedback to help them achieve their goals.

    How to Coach an Employee

    Coaching an underperforming employee can be a challenging task, but with the right approach, it can lead to significant improvements in their performance. One effective coaching model that can be used is the GROW model developed by Alan Fine. The GROW model is an acronym for Goal, Reality, Options, and Way Forward. Here is how to coach an underperforming employee using the GROW model.

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    1. Goal

    Start by identifying a specific and measurable goal for the employee. This goal should be challenging but achievable and should be aligned with the employee’s job responsibilities and the overall objectives of the organization. For example, if the employee is a sales representative who is not meeting their sales targets, the goal could be to increase their sales by a certain percentage within a specific time frame.

    Goal: Sarah meets with John to discuss his performance and sets a specific goal for him to increase his sales by 20% within the next three months. This goal is challenging but achievable and aligned with the company’s overall sales targets.

    2. Reality

    Once you have identified the goal, it is essential to assess the current reality. This involves looking at the employee’s current performance and identifying what is causing their underperformance. This could include a lack of skills or knowledge, a lack of motivation, or a lack of support from their manager or team.

    Reality: Sarah and John review John’s recent sales performance and identify that he has been struggling to generate new leads and close deals with potential customers. They also identify that John lacks confidence when presenting the company’s products to customers.

    3. Options

    Once you have identified the reality, the next step is to explore different options for improving the employee’s performance. This could involve providing additional training or coaching, assigning a mentor or coach, or changing their job responsibilities. It is important to involve the employee in this process and get their input on what they think would be most effective.

    Options: Sarah and John discuss different options for improving John’s performance. They agree that John would benefit from additional training in sales techniques and presentation skills. Sarah arranges for John to attend a sales training course and assigns a mentor to work with John to help him practice his sales presentations.


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    4. Way Forward

    Finally, it is essential to create a plan of action to achieve the identified goal. This involves identifying specific steps that the employee can take to improve their performance and setting specific milestones to track progress toward the goal. It is important to ensure that the plan of action is realistic, achievable, and aligned with the employee’s skills and job responsibilities. By involving the employee in the planning process and providing regular feedback and support, managers can help the employee stay motivated and committed to achieving their goal.

    Way Forward: Sarah and John create a plan of action to achieve the identified goal. They agree that John will attend the sales training course and meet with his mentor once a week to practice his sales presentations. They set specific milestones to track John’s progress, including the number of new leads he generates and the number of sales he closes.

    Outcome of Effective Coaching with the GROW Model

    Over the next three months, John attends the sales training course and meets with his mentor regularly. He practices his sales presentations and starts to feel more confident when presenting the company’s products to customers. As a result, he begins to generate more leads and close more sales.

    At the end of the three-month period, Sarah meets with John to review his performance. She congratulates him on his improved performance and notes that he has exceeded his sales target by 25%. Sarah then provides specific feedback on areas where he has improved and acknowledges his efforts and progress. Lastly, Sarah sets a new goal for John to continue to improve his sales performance and increase his customer satisfaction ratings.

    By using the GROW model, Sarah was able to help John identify a specific goal, assess his current performance, explore different options for improvement, and create a plan of action to achieve his goal. By providing regular feedback, support, and encouragement, Sarah helped John improve his confidence and skills, leading to significant improvements in his sales performance.

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    How to Coach an Employee: Bringing it Together

    Here are some coaching tips that can help managers bring together the principles of coaching and the GROW model to help employees achieve their potential:

    Start with listening: The first step in effective coaching is to listen actively to the employee’s needs, concerns, and goals. Be open-minded and ask questions to get a better understanding of the employee’s perspective.

    Set clear expectations: Work with the employee to identify specific goals and set clear expectations for what success looks like. Make sure the employee has a clear understanding of what they need to do to achieve their goals.

    Use the GROW model: Use the GROW model to structure coaching sessions and focus on the employee’s growth and development. Start by identifying the Goal, then work on understanding the Reality of the situation, exploring Options, and creating an action plan for the Way Forward.

    Be specific with feedback: When providing feedback, be specific and focus on behaviors that can be changed. Avoid personal attacks or generalizations. And provide feedback in a way that is constructive and supportive.

    Be flexible and adaptable: Recognize that every employee is different and that coaching requires a flexible and adaptable approach. Be willing to adjust your coaching style to meet the needs of each employee and situation.


    Coaching and managing are two distinct but complementary approaches to supervising employees. While managing focuses on day-to-day activities and monitoring progress, coaching is focused on employee development and achieving long-term growth.

    By understanding the principles of coaching and the GROW model, managers can help employees identify their strengths and weaknesses, set goals, and develop the skills and knowledge they need to succeed. This leads to more engaged, motivated, and productive employees, which ultimately benefits both the employee and the organization.

    By listening actively, setting clear expectations, using the GROW model, providing specific feedback, and being flexible and adaptable, managers can become more effective coaches and help employees achieve their full potential.

    Shaun Mendonsa, PhD is an influencing expert and pharmaceutical development leader. He writes on the topics of influence and persuasion, and develops next generation drugs in human pharma by advising international pharmaceutical CROs and CMOs. He can be reached at [email protected].


    How to Coach an Employee, Alan Fine, GROW Model, Effective Leadership, Leadership Tips, Coaching, Talent Management

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