As a manager, it can be tough when an employee makes a mistake. Sometimes these are small offenses like constantly showing up five minutes late, and sometimes there are bigger issues like consistently not meeting goals or being rude to coworkers. You know your employees are only human and that humans make mistakes. So, you’re not looking to fire your employees, but you know you must address the issues that are causing a problem in the workplace.

Communicating effectively with employees is the best way to work through problems. Employees want to know what’s expected of them. But they also want to feel safe at work. Workplace communication is always a work in progress, but there is one major transition that can facilitate fewer issues with employees and higher employee engagement: start coaching employees rather than lecturing them.

What’s Wrong with Lecturing?

Think back to grade school. You sat passively in class while the teacher droned on about medieval explorers. She gave you all the information, told you what to think and how to feel. Fast forward to college. You actually sat in something called a “lecture hall.” The professor basically engaged in a one-sided conversation. You listened, took notes, and promptly forget most of what was said.

The best learning happens when people are engaged and attentive. When you start listing everything the employee did wrong, they’ll tune out. Or worse yet, they’ll get defensive. People are sensitive when it comes to being told what to do, especially when it feels punitive. Lecturing your employees makes it seem like you don’t trust them to make decisions. They lose confidence in themselves and in you as a leader. Lecturing is not about helping your employees improve, it’s about punishing them for mistakes.

Why Coaching is A Better Option

Coaching is about improving performance. Think about how a first base coach does his job. The coach reminds the runner to watch the pitcher and then encourages him to steal second when it’s time. A coach develops players’ skills and abilities—working with what they can already do and growing that into new talents.

Coaching in the workplace is a collaborative process. You use questions and reflections to help your employees grow their abilities. Instead of issuing punishments for wrongdoings, let your employee talk through what went wrong, why it happened, and how to avoid it in the future.

Coaching is invited rather than forced. The time for coaching is not when your employee is feeling defensive. In that case, she’ll be resistant to change. Instead, leave your door open for the employee to come to you after he’s spent some time processing what happened.

A good workplace coach knows mistakes are not made because people are fundamentally bad. Instead, as a manager, you know that people make mistakes because they were unable to come up with a better solution. If you have an employee who is rude, work with him on identifying personal triggers. If you have an employee is who constantly late, work with her on time management skills. Coaching is about cultivating capability.

Does Coaching Really Make a Difference?

In short, yes. A study found that, “97% of employees readily admit to having a ‘career-limiting habit’ — some behavior that will forever hold them back, unless they can learn to change it.” Employees want to learn to be better, and as a manager, it is your job to help them improve.

Coaching is a two-way relationship. It recognizes that mistakes are natural and are allowed. Coaching is a positive approach to exploring employees’ goals and ambitions, while also guiding them in ways that benefit the company.

As a coach, you not only transfer knowledge, but you also learn things along the way. You become a more strategic thinker and are better able to analyze problems impacting your department.

For your employees, coaching increases their confidence and self-esteem. It makes them feel safe at work. It builds their skills and allows them to identify areas that they need to work on. Coaching gives employees the support they feel is missing from many work relationships. Believe it or not, most employees want specific, actionable feedback at work.

Coaching helps company culture. People who feel supported are more likely to stay in the job. As more people participate in coaching relationships, the skills and knowledge of the workforce grow tremendously.

How to Get Started Coaching

Sounds great, right? So why isn’t everyone coaching? The answer is complex, but basically comes down to changing the mindset around how problems are dealt with in organizations. When you decide to coach, you are deciding to invest in your employees. You are going to give them more of your time and more resources to better themselves.

When you’re ready to get started, here’s what you should do:

  1. Meet with employees to set expectations. Find out what each person’s end goal is.
  2. Listen to learn more about each employee. Instead of jumping in with suggestions right away, listen to what your employees are actually saying. You’ll learn a lot about them and your department.
  3. Don’t use coaching as a punishment. This process is about ongoing feedback, both positive and negative. It’s also about offering guided career development for your employees.
  4. Explore the use of reflective questions. Coaching involves you asking questions and getting your employee to come to some kind of answer on their own. Your questions should help guide their thinking, but in coaching, you rarely give definitive answers.
  5. Create action steps. Help your employees map out what’s next for their careers and development. If you know of excellent resources, make suggestions.

Coaching your employees build dynamic, interactive, sustainable relationships in the workplace. When your team sees that you’re working hard to help them get better, they’ll work hard for you.

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