How are your attempts to coach your employees going? Are you willing to bet that the employees will successfully change a bad or destructive habit?

Joseph Grenny, a co-founder of corporate training and leadership development firm VitalSmarts, conducted a study of close to 1,000 professionals and found that 97 percent of them admit to having a "career-limiting habit." These bad habits can range from unreliability to procrastination to just a resistance to change.

Unfortunately, Grenny writes in Harvard Business Review, those habits usually prove immune to conventional efforts to break them.

"Our research shows that coaching rarely works. Fewer than one in five people who make a concerted effort to change some career-limiting habit actually do it. But even worse, most managers expect their coaching attempts to fail. And worse than that, most recipients of coaching give themselves little chance of real change," he writes.

Grenny says that leaders make three mistakes when coaching employees to drop bad habits. Read below to find out which errors you're guilty of and how to correct them.

1. Ask, don't tell.

When people are told they need to change a habit, the typical response is to rebel. "Whether people change is largely determined by why they change. And they are most successful at changing when they choose to change," Grenny writes. "'Coaching' is often imposed rather than invited. Successful coaching assiduously avoids any approach that might provoke resistance to the attempt at change." The trick is to not lecture your employees about their bad habit, or tell them that their habit is hurting their chances of promotion. Instead, ask questions--treat the coaching session like an interview. Help them uncover motivations they already have, Grenny says.

2. Enable people, don't motivate.

Once you are able to help people uncover their motivations to change, you need to enable them to change. Grenny says this is where many coaches and leaders make the mistake of "overvaluing motivation." When an employee has issues procrastinating, we tend to think she is lazy. If an employee has a bad temper, we say he is overly aggressive. But these behaviors are not so simple. Grenny says "attributing behavior to dispositional factors" is a mistake. Instead of just going after motivations, a great coach will go after "ability barriers." One example: "If someone struggles with procrastination, a good coach might suggest tactics for better managing interruptions," he says. For your short-tempered employee, help him pinpoint emotional triggers. Find out what's getting in the way of your talented employees' ability to work well.

3. Explore the context of behaviors.

When a coach focuses solely on the employee, not much change can take place. An employee's motives and abilities do not live in a vacuum. Grenny says you need to address the four sources of influence: "fans, accomplices, incentives, and environment." Are other people, the office culture, and the work environment contributing to the problem? "These four factors can confound even the most resolute people in their efforts to change. But our study shows that when all of these sources of influence are engaged positively in the effort, the likelihood of rapid and sustainable change increases tenfold," he writes. If you find an executive is giving your short-tempered employee a pat on the back for yelling at a subordinate, you need to make sure it doesn't happen again in the future. If bad behavior is met with silence, you're contributing to the problem. And if bad employees are promoted, you're effectively incentivizing people to be bad.

 

Published on: Feb 17, 2015