Over the past 18 months, we, as a country focused a LOT on what we DON’T want.

(“She’ll bring about the end of the Republic.” “He’ll set us back 50 – maybe 100 – years!”)

And now, if you look at the polling numbers, there are more than 59 million Americans focused on one thing: they got what they didn’t want.

Like or not, this happens in the workplace too.

Think about “Betty” or “Ted” or “the new guy.” Maybe he or she is rude or unprofessional. Maybe he or she is bringing the entire team, department or project down.

Pretty soon, all you and your team can see is the negative. In time, you might find yourself with an astonishingly long list of “infractions.”

As a manager, it’s easy to develop tunnel vision when managing performance with this type of employee. He or she gets defensive. You get frustrated, and the whole situation slowly devolves until it’s an HR issue. All because we focused on what we don’t want (negative behaviors) instead of what we do want (optimum performance).

Time for a “Pivot”

The secret to correcting this kind of thinking is to come to grips with a core truth: the employee doesn’t want this situation either. They want to grow. They want you to invest your time and energy with them just like you do with your top performers. Too often as managers, we focus on gaps – gaps in performance, gaps in ability, gaps in attitude, etc. This is classic “don’t want” coaching.

The change in mindset that we need to facilitate is to “pivot” – to go from coaching to behaviors as they occur in the past or present and pivot to a clear, specific vision of what we want to see in the future.

This can be difficult. It takes a solid understanding of competencies, performance expectations, and mindful preparation. Here’s a tip you can use tomorrow to get Betty, Ted, and the new guy back on track:

  • Avoid vague adjectives. How much of your coaching sounds like this: “You need to be a better communicator.” Or “We need you to be a team player.” What the heck does that even mean? How do you even begin to coach to that. And, what if Betty or Ted already see themselves as a team player? It’ll be an uphill battle. Instead, consider specific behaviors that you want to see – asking better questions; better prep for meetings, etc., and make the behaviors the focus of your plan.

Maybe it’ll sound like this: “Betty, in the future, I would like you to look the customer in the eye and thank her for stopping by, even if she doesn’t buy anything.

Is that measurable? Yes. Clear? Yes. Focused on the future? Yes.

Make this specific behavior – the DO want – the focus of your coaching with Betty and watch her bloom as she sees her competency in that skill improve.

Take a moment and visit our Solutions page.  At Velocity, we are dedicated to help your managers have better coaching conversations that result in specific, measurable improvements in performance.