Coaching Employees toward More Effective Behaviors

June 3, 2014

by Beverly Flaxington

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Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues.  To submit yours, email us here.

Advisor Perspectives welcomes guest contributions. The views presented here do not necessarily represent those of Advisor Perspectives.

Dear Bev,

I have been trying to get one of my advisors to improve her client approach. She is brusque and cuts clients off in mid-sentence sometimes. More importantly she isn’t following my protocols. I have asked her to sit in meetings with me and watch what I do. I have a series of steps I take and I expect all of my staff to do the same things. I am not ready to fire her. What else can I do to get her to model my behavior?

Sally G.

Dear Sally,

Your question actually threw me for a bit of a loop! Is the objective to get her to model your behavior, or is it to learn excellent client communication skills she can practice in her own style? This is one of the biggest frustrations I find with managers who are hoping for different behavior from their associates. You expect her to learn to do it your way, but you and she may have completely different communication styles. Right now you are saying “Watch what I do and then do it” but what if she can’t? What if she doesn’t have the same observation skills, listening skills, outgoing nature or other attributes that you possess?

Too many leaders work hard to show others what they should do, and how they should do it. This only works if you have hired someone who is very much like you – and communicates and acts in similar fashions.

Rather than expecting her to conform to your way, instead outline for her what you expect. Set clear goals and objectives so she understands what success looks like to you. Catch her doing things right and point them out. When she does something that isn’t to your standards, be very clear about how she took the misstep and what you would expect her to do differently next time.

Too often the person in charge will say, “Be more friendly next time,” or “You didn’t seem like you were listening to the client.” These are very vague statements. If I don’t know what I did wrong to seem unfriendly, it will be hard for me to shift into a more friendly state!

Whenever we want to correct or change behavior, we have to be clear and consistent in our feedback. It sounds as if this is very important to you – and for obvious reasons – so I suggest speaking with her on a weekly basis to continue to observe, reinforce, observe and reinforce.

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