As the time for performance reviews rolls around, leaders must confront a stark choice: They can either force a new reality on their employees (power), or prepare employees to face reality in a new way (partnership). Smart leaders understand the impact of mirror holding -- the deliberate and strategic use of reflective questioning that allows others to see themselves in a whole new light. This coach approach takes the pain out of giving reviews and often leads to stronger performance partnerships between managers and employees.

Based on the inspiring leaders I wrote about in my book The Feedback Fix and my own experiences coaching leadership teams, I've found that taking a coach approach to feedback often leads to more honest and authentic conversations about work, goals, and growth.

Without a doubt, coaching is complex and nuanced work requiring a great deal of skill and finesse. But honing a coach approach is something every manager can do -- especially if they learn to ask focused questions that prompt reflection and discussion about these five performance targets.

1. Strengths

Too often, performance reviews dwell on employee deficits --  the disappointments, missed chances and other ways people have come up short. Leading with a coach approach flips the focus to employee strengths -- the natural ways people can bring their best selves to their jobs. 

Uncover those strengths by asking questions like: 

1. What are you good at doing?

2. Which work activities require less effort?

3. Are there jobs you take on because you feel you're the best one to do it?

4. What have you been recognized for throughout your career?

2. Passions

There' a strong link between our strengths and passions -- and when employees play to their passions, it becomes an energizing force in their work. Coach them towards this realization by asking questions like: 

1. In a typical work-week, what do you most look forward to doing?

2. What do you see on your calendar that excites you?

4. If you could design a job with no restrictions, how would you spend your time?

3. Values

How people perform at work isn't just a reflection of their strengths -- it stems from the values they hold about the work they do. Leading with a coach approach helps activate those latent beliefs with values-driven questions such as: 

1. What are some of your top priorities in and outside of work?

2. What's a work outcome you're most proud of?

3. Which of your tasks is most critical to our team or organization?

4. Goals

After coaching your employees to talk about their strengths, passions and values, it's now time to direct the conversation to actionable goals. But rather than prioritize these goals for others, leaders who adopt a coach approach prompt their employees to do this for themselves:          

1. What would it take for you to feel like you're building momentum in this job? 

2. What new knowledge and skills would you like to explore?

3. What do you envision for yourself next?

5. Relationships

We can only get so far on our own. Fostering positive relationships at work -- especially with the colleagues we interact with on a daily basis -- can broaden and build our performance path. Managers can guide employees towards a better understanding of how they fit into the fabric of their organization with this final set of questions:

1. How would you describe your relationship with your co-workers?

2. What would your colleagues say about you behind your back?

3. If you could choose your own team, who would be on it, and why? 

The best leaders don't force us to become miniature versions of themselves -- they inspire us to become the grandest version of ourselves . Adopting a coach approach that's powered by partnership does just that -- and allows people to set the terms for their personal and professional success.

Published on: Jan 29, 2019
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