How to introduce coaching into your one-to-one reviews

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Performance management has changed enormously over the last few decades. An annual review, where a line manager leads the discussion, rates the employee and dictates their objectives is no longer fit for purpose. Employees want to be included in the conversation, have the opportunity to air their opinions and take control of their own development.

More and more organizations are adopting regular reviews to enable line managers and employees to work collaboratively, pulling in the same direction to achieve common objectives rather than being pitted against each other.

These regular one-to-ones provide the ideal opportunity for coaching and performance management to align. A coaching approach which is about developing employees to produce improved work is exactly what performance management should be focused on. Coaching is about being non-directive, encouraging employees to find their own solutions. It helps them to understand what their strengths are and recognize where they can improve.

Table of contents
Coaching is a skill that needs to be learned
Coaching needs to be personal
Tips on how to combine coaching and performance management

Coaching is a skill that needs to be learned

Line managers are expected to do a lot. On top of their own work, they are also required to help and support their direct reports. Many are put into managerial positions because they are good at their role, not because they have the right skills to manage people. 

Research suggests that as many as 80% of managers receive no formal management training. Coaching is not something that anyone can instinctively do without coach training. If it is to be done effectively, line managers need training to understand the process and how to implement it within their one-to-ones.

Coaching needs to be personal

Everyone is different, with their own distinct personalities, characteristics and learning styles. Some people need to be very hands-on and physically do tasks to learn how to do them. Others are more cerebral and like to read about the theory before putting it into practice. Line managers must recognize their employees are individuals and adapt their approach accordingly.

Tips on how to combine coaching and performance management

Creating a structure for your one-to-ones that supports their line managers and enables employees to take control of their own development is far from simple, and each business has their own unique requirements. 

However, we have learned a lot over the years and have seen first-hand the benefits of integrating coaching and performance management. Here are our tips on how to introduce this approach successfully.

  • Take time to prepare. The time that line managers and employees spend together is valuable, so treat it as such. Both parties must take a few minutes to consider what they want to achieve from the one-to-one. This will ensure that the time is used as productively as possible, and the conversation is focused.
  • Let the employee take the lead. As a manager it is your job to help your employee recognise their strengths and the areas where they could improve. While it is essential that progress against their agreed objectives is reviewed, also use the time to see what else your employee would like to discuss about their career and what would help them progress in this area.
  • Listen. Any good relationship is built on listening. Both participants must feel confident and comfortable to share their concerns or raise any issues which might be affecting performance or progress. Managers don’t have all the answers. If an employee has a problem, encouraging them to think about the root causes and what they can do to solve it can be very powerful. It allows them to come to their own conclusions, which helps to boost their self-confidence and resilience.
  • Change them up. If anything remains the same, it can soon start to feel stale and dull. Try and avoid having a set formula for your one-to-ones. Think about how you can keep them fresh, for example by changing the location or challenging your employee to do something different.
  • Ask for support when you need to. Being a manager throws up all sorts of challenges, especially if you are dealing with an issue that is completely new. If you come across an issue that your employee is struggling to solve by themselves, seek help from colleagues to come up with new approaches or prompts to get them to think about it in a different way.
  • Review. Don’t assume the one-to-one format is working just because there seem to be no problems from your point of view. Check with your employee on a regular basis that the sessions are working for them too. Ask them to say what they find most useful and what, if anything, they would like to change. These sessions must be valuable for you both, so encourage honest and timely feedback.

As more and more employers embrace hybrid working with employees trusted to work remotely for a significant period of time, coaching becomes increasingly important. 

Employees need to be able to motivate themselves and trust their own judgment. Combining coaching and one-to-one reviews is an effective way for employees to develop the skills they need to thrive in the future.

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