Category Performance Management

Make Virtual Coaching Better

Of all the jobs a manager/leader has, one that we often feel we could do better, is coaching.

Experience shows that it is the part of the role we often feel gets ignored or isn’t done as well as we’d like. Your employees, especially those who work remotely, most likely agree with you.

So, what can we do about it?

Here are some things you can do to make your coaching more effective when you can’t be face-to-face.

Decide to have a real coaching conversation.

A coaching call is not a “check-in.” Good coaching requires focus on both ends of the line, planning, and attention to detail. Look at it this way: if you were going to coach someone in the office, you’d take them somewhere private. You’d sit down, maybe have a moment of casual conversation and demonstrate relaxed, positive body language.

When coaching virtually, the same things apply.  Be somewhere you both can relax and not be distracted. Take enough time that you’re able to engage in some social conversation before you dive in. Any conversation that starts with, “Let’s not waste time, let’s get down to business,” is probably going to restrict real conversation and the chance to explore what’s going on with the other person.

Read How Silence Is Critical To Good Conversations

Make coaching conversations as rich as possible.

Coaching can be an emotional experience. When we are face to face, we can hear the tone of the person’s response as well as their facial expressions and body language. The best results happen when you’re having rich, real-time conversations. For that reason, you want to have as “rich” a conversation as possible.

You want to make sure you are communicating effectively, and are understood, and any unspoken objections or questions get surfaced. This is almost impossible to do over the telephone alone, so use your webcams. Get both parties used to the idea of being on camera when the stakes are low and the conversations casual, so you’ll both be less self-conscious when your discussions get deeper and more important.

Read How Coaching Is More About the Person Than The Problem

Have a list—but not a checkbox.

A rich, constructive coaching conversation has a lot going on. You need to know what you’re going to discuss, have supporting evidence or questions you need to ask, and there’s a process to a well-run coaching call. Most of us can’t keep everything clear in our head and wind up hanging up and then thinking of all the things we forgot about or could have said or done differently.

So having a list of topics and reminders is a good thing. On the other hand, if we treat it like a checklist, with the goal just to tick off boxes, we often focus on that, rather than listening to the other person for clues that we should probe deeper, or some things aren’t being said. It’s a fine line, but an important one.

Open the call to possibilities.

Coaching means you must actively listen to the other person. One of the challenges for a lot of us is that people will answer the questions they’re asked. Many of us start with well-meaning requests for information that prematurely focus the discussion and don’t always open the door to more productive conversations. For example, there is a difference between “What’s going on with the Jackson account?” and “What are you spending most of your time on?” 

Get Our 27 Open-ended Questions

Here are some open-ended questions to kickstart coaching conversations:

What’s up?

How’s it going?

What’s working?

Where are you stuck?

How can I help?

Notice that you’re leaving the responses up to the other person.

You may want to get to the problem at hand, but if there are other priorities, or challenges or the person has something they need to discuss first, you’ll have a better talk when you get to it.


For more information on coaching at a distance, consider our Coaching Services.

Better Coaching is a critical skill development that we offer to help you become a Better Leader!



The 7 Step Coaching Process

For indepth analysis please check out the full book by Michael Bungay Stanier titled

the COACHING HABIT: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever on Amazon.

Coaching for Performance is about addressing and fixing a specific problem, sorting something out. Development is turning from the issue to the person dealing with the issue, calling individuals forward to learn, improve and grow. The remainder of this blog will follow this structure:

  1. The Kickstarter Questions “What’s on your mind?”
  2. The best coaching question in the world… “And what else”
  3. The Focus Question: What is the real challenge here for you?
  4. The Foundation Question: “What do you want?”
  5. The Lazy Question: “How can I help?”
  6. The Strategic Question: “If you are saying yes to this, what are you saying no to?”
  7. The Learning Question: “What was most useful for you?”

These simple triggers should form a line manager’s 101 bible for helping coach their team around them.

Thoughtful Profound Questions Will Tell When You Are About To Make A Good Hire – Their’s, Not Yours!

Gary Vaynerchuk tells a story about when his ego got in the way of firing a bad hire. It was so bad that he fired the person on their first day. At least in Vaynerchuk’s mind, he fired the person on the first day, but it took Gary 4-months to do it.

Why? Because his ego got in the way, and he didn’t want to admit he made a mistake.

I did that, too. I made a terrible hire but was so committed to a course of action that I couldn’t get out of my way to do the right thing.

Read the story here.

A few years back, I hired a person on my team against other people’s wishes. I was sure he had the right skills and experience, and hiring the usual suspects hadn’t gotten the results I needed & wanted, so maybe it was time to be disruptive. I wasn’t sure I liked him either. He wasn’t kind or diplomatic in his comments. He wasn’t likable., He was a bully, and my not dealing with it caused harm to many people.

Big Mistake.

I used to have a propensity to hire only for talent. Until I realized that wasn’t helpful.

Another mistake.

Or I would hire people I liked. And I thought that was going well until I realized I had filled the room with many Me’s.

And that wasn’t helpful in the least.

But I have learned from my mistakes.

Three steps to making better hires?

Here is what you need to do.

Check your ego, and take time and space to consider the following questions:

  1. Make a list of your best hires. Consider why these people were great hires. What did they have in common? What parts of the process were most valuable?


  1. Consider what your organizational culture is, and then hire for fit.


  1. And lastly, don’t be blinded by talent. Talent is shiny and exciting, but it is not enough. My worst hire was super talented, but he was an SOB.

Then, set up a conversation when you land on a preferred candidate or a short list of a couple of people.

Try to do it over lunch or breakfast.

Watch how that person interacts with the waitstaff, whether off-site or over a meal. As this will speak volumes about that person’s character.

Get your copy of the Hunger Humble & Smart Hiring guide here.

Then, when the time is right, say this:

“Hey. Let’s not waste your time here by telling me what is in your CV and your work history or regurgitating any of the answers you gave during the interview process.

But please tell me what questions I can answer for you about this job?”

Usually, this completely disarms the candidate because they were likely expecting another round of canned interview questions. And:

  • It will demonstrate if they need to prepare to take on this role. If they had thought about it, they would have lots of questions.


  • It will show if they have connected with you deeper than responding to a question.


  • If they stumble around, it will show that they may not even know themselves as well as you need,


  • And finally, it will show if they are curious. Curious about the role, about you and the risks of coming to work for you. And there are always risks in changing jobs.

And if they ask good, thoughtful and, hopefully, profound questions, these will tell you they will be a good hire.





5 Actions To Drive Alignment and Increase in Profit – And Who Doesn’t Want More Profit

Poor managerial behaviours negatively impact engagement, alignment, productivity, and retention.

Research has identified gaps between what people expect and their experience when working with their immediate manager.

Poor managers cost your company money when:

  1. They don’t set clear goals with their people.
  2. They don’t align goals to the team, departmental, and organizational objectives.
  3. They don’t check in on progress.
  4. They don’t provide feedback.
  5. They don’t adjust their style based on the needs of the employee.
  6. They don’t listen.
  7. They don’t change (without training and support).


  1. They don’t set clear goals with their people.


About 70 percent of people want to have goal-setting conversations often or all the time, but only 36 percent do. When managers aren’t skilled in setting specific, trackable, relevant, attainable, and motivating goals, the result is multiple priorities, unclear action steps, and a poor line of sight on how work contributes to larger objectives.

“All good performance begins with a laser-like focus on goals,” so Identify 3 to 5 critical goals for each employee and make sure they are written down. Goals that are written down are 18 percent more likely to be achieved. Writing down the goal also makes it easier to review.

  1. They don’t align goals to the team, departmental, and organizational objectives.

Only 14 percent of organizations report that their employees understand their company’s strategy and direction.

When people don’t know where their company is going, they can work on projects that are out of step with organizational objectives.

Make sure all team members are working on the highest-priority tasks. Ask managers to check in and review priorities with their people. Ensure the work is meaningful, on target, and contributes to overall organizational goals.

  1. They don’t check in on progress.

More than 73 percent of people want to have goal-review conversations often or all the time, but only 47 percent do. And 26 percent say they rarely or never discuss current goals and tasks.

What gets measured gets managed.

Research conducted at Dominican University in California found that people who write down their goals, share them with someone else, and have regular weekly check-ins are 30 percent more likely to achieve those goals than people who do not.

  1. They don’t provide feedback.

Research shows that 67 percent of people want to have performance-feedback conversations often or all the time, but only 29 percent do. And 36 percent say they rarely or never receive performance feedback.

Without feedback, people don’t have a way to make course corrections or to know how they are doing until it’s late in the process. No one feels good when work must be redone because of a lack of feedback.

A few key attributes of good feedback are:

– Focus on observable behaviours, not personality traits. Feedback should be clear and directive and should focus on concrete actions.

– Keep a positive end goal in mind. Paint a positive picture of the desired outcome that gives people a vision to work toward.

– Offer to be an accountability partner. Change is hard. Offer to provide appropriate direction and support as needed.

  1. They don’t adjust their style based on the needs of the employee.

Nearly 54 percent of managers use the same leadership style for all people in all situations, regardless of whether a direct report is new to a task or already an expert. Half the time, this results in a manager either over-supervising or under-supervising.

The best managers tailor their management style to the needs of their employees. For example, if an employee is new to a task, a successful manager will use a highly directive style with clearly set goals and deadlines. If an employee struggles with a task, the manager will use equal measures of direction and support. If the employee is an expert at a task, a manager will use a delegating style on the current assignment and focus instead on coming up with new challenges and future growth projects.

  1. They don’t listen.

When I ask clients and audience members, “What is the biggest mistake leaders make when working with others?” Forty-one percent of the respondents identified inappropriate communication or poor listening.

Here’s a three-step model to help managers slow down and focus on what people share.

– Explore—ask open-ended questions such as, “Can you tell me more about that?” or “How do you think that will go?” or “What does that mean?”

– Acknowledge—respond with comments such as, “You must be feeling …” or “So, if I hear you correctly, what you’re saying is ….”

– Respond—now that you understand the direct report’s point of view, you can carefully move forward with a possible response.

  1. They don’t change (without training and support).

Most new managers—60 percent—underperform or fail in their first assignments. Worse yet, as Harvard researcher Linda Hill has found, managerial habits developed by new managers often continue to hobble them for the rest of their careers.

With two million people across North America stepping into their first managerial position each year, getting people the training they need is critical.

Unfortunately, research shows that most managers don’t receive formal training until ten years into their careers!

I suggest you rethink the traditional approach to who gets trained in the organization.

My suggestions?

  1. Don’t hold your best people back—in fact, don’t hold anyone back. Why not train everybody who desires it?
  2. Show everyone you value them and are willing to invest in their development.
  3. Adopt inclusive policies that identify and provide people with the training they need to build leadership bench strength, bring out the best in people, and create a strong work culture.

Better leadership practices have been positively associated with increased engagement, alignment, productivity, and performance.

Research has identified that better leadership practices—if fully employed—could be worth as much as a 7 percent increase in profits!

For leadership development professionals, these seven areas provide an opportunity to take a more targeted approach to improve manager performance in each region.

Here are five ways to get started.

  1. Take a look at the overall design of your performance management process.

Conduct a quick internal assessment. Are managers following best practices in setting specific, motivating, attainable, relevant, and trackable goals? What percentage of employees have current goals written down?

Individuals and organizations achieve more when goals are identified, written down, and reviewed consistently.

Read more about performance management

  1. Double-check on goal alignment at the team and department level.

Make sure that all team members are working on the highest-priority tasks. Ask managers to check in and review priorities with their people.

Ensure the work is meaningful, on target, and contributes to overall organizational goals. Efficiency improves when everyone is clear on goals and moving in the same direction.

Read more about goal alignment.

  1. Please look at how much time your managers spend with their people.

Everyone benefits from regular coaching and performance review.

Monitoring progress and providing feedback are two key ways for a manager to stay involved and partner with an employee to achieve goals. I suggest leaders meet with their direct reports at least twice a month to discuss progress toward goals and to address employee needs for direction and support.

Read more about time management.

  1. Identify what individuals need to succeed in their high-priority tasks.

Managers need to adjust their leadership style to meet each person’s needs, depending on their experience and confidence with the tasks they are assigned.

With proper levels of direction and support, people can move through stages of development and reach peak performance faster.

Surprisingly, without training, only 1 percent of managers are skilled at identifying and delivering all four styles when needed, whether directing, coaching, supporting, or delegating.

  1. Review your performance review process.

In many organizations, goals are set at the beginning of the year and not seen again until the review process at the end of the year.

I recommend that managers conduct a series of mini-reviews throughout the year—every 90 days is the recommended standard. This allows leaders to make mid-course corrections. It also eliminates surprises for direct reports and keeps the partnership between the manager and direct report solid and vibrant.

 Read more about goals.

Final Thoughts

A renewed focus on leadership development can significantly affect an organization’s performance. Research shows that when managers meet the needs of their people, organizations benefit through higher levels of discretionary effort, work performance, and intention to remain and collaborate more effectively.

How are the managers in your organization impacting your bottom line?

Give your leadership development process a review.

Great managers aren’t born—they’re trained.

Get started today by emailing me at

There Is No Value In A Conversation That Starts With ‘You Idiot’ – Even If You Only Say It Under Your Breath.

99% of being a leader has everything to do with interpersonal relationships and social interactions.

And not every interaction is with someone you like.

Read more about working with that SOB in Accounting

The book Leadership and Self Deception: Getting Out of the Box by The Arbinger Institute is easy to read and written in the form of a fable.

The gist of the book is that conflict between people is based on our self-deception that we view others as either a help or hindrance and begin to feel we are more critical than others.

Whether it is a family member or that ‘idiot’ at work, this perception becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. We inflate our self-worth while deflating the other person until we rationalize our behaviour by blaming the other person.

How does the book suggest how we can get past this self-deception?

  1. Have empathy. Treat people like people. When you are in the box and are being self-deceptive, you treat others as objects, not as human beings.  

This doesn’t mean you don’t fire someone who isn’t right for a job; firing can be done by seeing the other person as an object or as a person among people.

  1. Don’t let your expectations affect your view of someone’s actions. One way of being in the box is having a view of a person or the world and then fitting all the evidence to reinforce your view.  

Suppose you expect someone to be a particular way. In that case, you view their actions differently. “we subconsciously begin to ignore or dismiss anything that threatens our worldviews, since we surround ourselves with people and information that confirm what we already think.”

  1. When you betray your sense of what you should do for another, you begin to see the world in a way that justifies your betrayal. And that leads to blaming others and viewing yourself as a victim.

For example, if you are sure that SOB is a jerk, everything that person does will begin to reinforce that perception, Even if he is doing the right thing.

  1. Self-betrayal leads to self-deception. When you engage in self-deception, you are in the box. You exaggerate your virtues, inflate the faults of others, and emphasize factors that support your self-deception.  

 When you betray your core values, you explain the betrayal by deceiving yourself.  

  1. Being in the box leads others to be in the box. By justifying your view of the world and acting and communicating accordingly, others will develop a view of you that causes them to be in the box. 

The leadership self-betrayal results when we don’t do what is right and justify that action or inaction to protect our egos. This leads to us shifting the blame onto others. We start to view others as activating or stumbling blocks – they help or hinder us.

This book’s message is that the problem often lies within ourselves, and only through self-awareness can we move forward.

I wish I had read this book in my twenties when I was starting my leadership journey … except I suspect I had deceived myself and was so self-absorbed that it would have been lost on me.

As is most good life advice. 

Stop rewarding people based on Performance; start Promoting Potential.

We’ve all been there.

Once a year, our manager would call us into their office and review what we had done well throughout the year – or, more likely, what we had done wrong eleven months ago. Then we would leave the manager’s office and return to work exactly like before.

Nothing changed! This is why it’s time to replace the performance review process.

Read more about the difference between High Potential and High Performance.

Need more reasons?

Performance Reviews Aren’t Effective – Performance reviews rarely lead to a change in behaviour by the manager or the employee. Year after year, most managers give employees the same feedback. And most employees don’t do anything in response. One reported that as little as one-third of employees showed improvement after their annual review. That’s likely because performance reviews rarely offer actionable steps for employees to take when struggling.

Performance Reviews Aren’t Reliable – Seventy-seven percent of HR executives believe performance reviews don’t accurately reflect employee contributions, according to CEB research. And CEB’s HR practice leader Rose Mueller-Hanson agrees with those executives. She states, “Our research shows that individual performance ratings have zero correlation with actual business results.”

Performance Reviews Are Time-Consuming – A recent CEB survey found that managers spend an average of 210 hours yearly in performance management activities. Managers said their employees, in turn, each spend 40 hours a year. Deloitte reported that its approximately 244,000 employees spent more than 2 million hours a year on performance reviews. That’s much time spent on something that is proven to be unreliable and ineffective.

Performance Reviews Are Costly – Besides the time it takes to perform annual reviews, there’s the actual cost. According to information from the CEB, a company spends about $3,500 per employee on yearly reviews.

Given the time and cost of performance reviews, it’s surprising that more companies haven’t given them up yet. But if those aren’t enough reasons for you, the new research on how ineffective and misleading they are!



It’s time to stop evaluating performance and invest in potential.

High potentials can be challenging to identify for two reasons:

First, high performance is easy to observe and drowns out the less obvious attributes and behaviours that characterize high potentials—such as change management or learning capabilities.

Second, few organizations codify the attributes and competencies they value in their ideal employees—which means that managers don’t know precisely what to look for to assess potential.

As a result, most managers focus exclusively on performance, which can be a problem.

When performance is the only criterion employees are evaluated on, high performers will be the only ones moving up—and high potentials will move out.

You should value and reward performance, but it can’t be the only entry point.

Learn more about the Better Leader Inner Circle

What are the key characteristics of high-potential employees?

The characteristics of high-potential employees include Ability, Aspiration, Behaviour, Social Skills, Adaptability and Leadership. These traits are critical to identifying employee abilities that can contribute to the business and enable employers to put development programmes in place to maximize the skills of these individuals.

Ability relates to performance, an individual’s expertise, innate skills, and capacity to work autonomously and consistently deliver results. 

Aspiration is the desire to grow, taking accountability for decision-making. They share a drive to achieve, individually and as a team, and support and encourage growth.

Behaviour is one of the easiest traits to identify. High Potential Employees Show an increased capability to learn, cooperate with others and manage their behaviours and emotions and how they behave under pressure.

Social skills and High Emotional Intelligence allow High Potential Employees to adapt their personalities to different responsibilities and changing circumstances.

Adaptability. Under pressure, High Potential Employees usually remain calm, continue to perform, and can pivot easily.

Leadership is imperative for High Potential Employees to understand and respect quality leadership and aspire to fulfil such roles successfully.