COACHING FOR BEHAVIORAL CHANGE
s leaders, we preach teamwork, but often excuse ourselves from its practice—and even more often fail to hold people in our organizations accountable for demonstrating the behavior associated with living this value (Goldsmith, 1996). If everyone, including senior executives, acknowledges this challenge, why is it so difficult for leaders to promote change among those whose behavior they can most readily influence—their direct reports?
One reason is that leaders, like most people, want to be liked. Leaders are often afraid that confronting people about poor teamwork or other behavioral shortcomings (as opposed to performance problems) will cause them to be disliked. The paradox is, leaders would be respected more, not less, for delivering the bad news. Outside consultants often provide behavioral coaching to leaders, and leaders usually appreciate the help. Surveys show that people highly value honest feedback—whether or not the feedback itself is positive.
The nature of the performance-review process itself accounts for much of the problem. Historically, when assessing others, most managers were forced to play the role of judge—and, potentially, executioner. The consultant, by contrast, is usually seen as an objective third party who is providing analysis, suggestions, and feedback gathered from multiple sources. A person receiving bad news from a consultant is more likely to separate the message from the messenger than a person hearing the same news from the manager.
Fortunately, leaders have at their disposal a valuable aid already in place at many leading companies—360° feedback. Carefully designed processes that include 360° feedback can allow a leader to practice consultative behavioral coaching, as opposed to merely exercising personal judgment. The results can be profound—and not just for department heads evaluating their front-line employees. The executive coaching process can help any manager whose work involves personal interaction. In fact, senior management teams at some of the world’s leading companies—American Express, Avon, GE, Netscape, Nortel, and Texaco—use 360° feedback as part of an overall process to help align corporate values and individual behavior.
Before You Begin
Although this process can improve behavior, it will definitely not solve all performance problems. The behavioral coaching process described in this chapter will focus only on coaching for behavioral change, not on strategic coaching, career coaching, or any of the other types of coaching described in this book. Before you start, ask yourself whether any of the following conditions prevail. If so, behavioral coaching may be a waste of time.
The person you’re coaching is not willing to make a sincere effort to change. Behavioral coaching will only work if the manager you are coaching is willing to make the needed commitment.
The person has been written off by the company. Sometimes, organizations are really just documenting a case to get rid of someone. If that’s the case, don’t bother going through this process.
The person lacks the intelligence or functional skills to do the job. If a manager does not have the capacity or experience required, don’t expect behavioral coaching to help.
The organization has the wrong mission. Behavioral coaching is a “how to get there” process, not a “where to go” process. If the organization is headed in the wrong direction, behavioral coaching will not make it change course.
On the other hand, if you’re dealing with people who have the will and capacity to change their behavior, are operating in an environment that gives them a chance to change, and work for an organization that is headed in the right direction, this process will work; the nature of the process itself assures its success. The approach I recommend involves eight steps:
Identify attributes for the manager you are coaching. You should not have to