Andy, technical superintendent for a paper mill in northern Ontario, Canada, told Session 8B of the Leadership Development Lab:
"Mike, one of our process engineers who I supervise, is highly motivated and very good at meeting project deadlines. I have supervised him for approximately one year, and I am pleased with his overall performance. He does a good job of completing most projects on time. The area in which he needed to improve was his written reports. They lacked sufficient thorough analysis. He tended to expect the reader to go through his reports in detail and then draw their own conclusions. This has been a concern of mine for a number of months.
About midway through Turbo's Leadership Development Lab, I believed that I had the right approach to coach Mike. I approached him and praised him for all the good things he was doing, including finishing projects on time, showing a great attitude, and his proactive initiative. I then asked his permission to make a suggestion that I believed would benefit him going forward. I told him that it could make his work more valuable to the senior management team who doesn't have the same depth of technical understanding that he has. He immediately said, 'Yes'. In my best supportive voice, I recommended that he include more detailed verbal analysis in his report write-ups. I recommend that he thoroughly support his conclusions and recommendations, which would add clarity to his reports. He said 'it
will be different than my current style, and I will give it my best shot.' I then predicted that adding additional detail would improve clarity in all of his reports, and likely lead to fewer questions and greater support by other readers. He thanked me for my suggestion and promised to take the time to make the extra effort to improve the clarity and value of his reports.
The lesson I learned from this experience is that when I see someone that needs help to improve their performance, if I approach them in a structured, caring way, I can get the positive response I want.
The action I call you to take is to not procrastinate helping your employees improve just because you are concerned that you may offend them. Use a structured, caring approach. You and your employees will be much more willing to share knowledge when your approach is thought through clearly. Begin with praise, request permission, and make sure your coaching is behavior oriented.
The benefit you will gain is much more productive employees and improved relationships with your coworkers. Your confidence and theirs will improve as well when you are able to share information and knowledge openly without confrontation."