Performance plan = Coaching? 2 Arguments for NO

This leader has been underperforming and we have put a plan together to guide their efforts to climb back to a level of performance that will allow him/her to stay.

Have you ever been part of this conversation?  Every been the individual talked about in this conversation?

Personally, I can answer yes to both of the above questions.  Drawing on that experience, I have learned to ask two questions when I enter as the coach/consultant:

  1. Why do you want to keep them?
  2. How bad do you want to keep them?

I ask these questions mainly to listen for words of duty or passion.  To help a leader get back to a better place takes hard work.  To have that resolve, passion always trumps duty.  Duty to try because it is the ‘right thing to do’ will fail.  If the real passion of the leader is to look compassionate, then duty is the driver. Passion for helping this individual find success somewhere in the organization because the organization/team needs them results in a different level of resolve.  It is that resolve that comes through in the difficult conversations, and people will feel that.

I also log what I hear because it will need to be shared with the individual on the plan.  They may not believe it, which is their choice, but they at least need to hear it.  Too often these positive/supportive comments are the first they have heard in a while.

Now to the point of this whole post – Should coaching and performance plan be used in the same sentence? My advice is No, and here are two reasons.

1. Coaching should be a reward: Everyone is watching AND listening. By using the word coach people are now making the connection between I am in trouble and Coaching.  The reality of performance plans is most result in either the person being let go or them leaving for another job.  It is the right thing to give them a chance, both for the individual and for the culture of the organization – just call any effort to help or hire help what it is – performance consultant, advisor, or management.  Connecting Coaching with Reward will get you a greater return on your investment.

2.  It is really more telling than coaching: Coaching is about helping the individual craft a desired future and then working with them to move towards it.  Once a performance plan happens the panic button has been hit and the goal of the of individual is survival – whether that is leaving or doing whatever is on the list.  In this state, people need direction, will likely agree to anything, and will hide the most important information – which is how they are feeling.  Trust and truth is hard to share after the panic button is hit, and any talent management process without these is painful.

Talent management is about great conversations that lead to a higher level of performance.  Coaching can be a great tool for helping achieve this end, and the term should be reserved for people/situations where moving past good to excellent is the performance goal.

What is your experience?