Don’t just fire top executives – give them coaching

Imagine the situation, or perhaps you don’t need to imagine it as you have already experienced it, one of your senior executives is under-performing. Perhaps there have been some ‘issues’ for a while which have been overlooked because he or she has been producing the financial results expected or because your other senior executives have not known how to address the ‘issues’.

You know the sorts of things we are talking about:

  • Poor management of their team
  • Poor people or relationship management skills
  • Upsetting or being rude to staff and/or customers
  • Bullying
  • Harassment

…and all sorts of other performance issues.

One of your directors says to you “I want you to get rid of him/her as this has gone too far.” Often it seems easier to deal with performance issues with top executives by firing them than by taking them through the performance management process – but at what cost? Financially you have already made a huge investment in this executive including recruitment costs, salary, pension contributions, bonuses and so on. And then there will be the legal costs and the negotiated package for ‘letting them go’ plus the cost of recruiting a replacement.

What about the other costs, the emotional costs? By not dealing with these performance issues you are allowing this executive to do the same thing again and again which is not fair to them and not fair to their future employers. You are also sending out an inconsistent message to your employees about performance management.

The alternative is to provide the executive with coaching. Ideally this would happen as early as possible and would be in response to specific feedback given to him or her. In reality this does not always happen and the situation has become serious by the time you get to hear about it. All is not lost though and by offering coaching to the executive you are offering him or her a lifeline.

What types of coaching are appropriate?

The type of coaching needed depends on the ‘issue’ and would generally fall into three categories:

  1. Executive Coaching – coaching for enhanced performance within a business environment. Typically, clear outcomes are defined by the individual and/or the organisation of where they want to be within a specific timescale.
  2. Skills Coaching – one-to-one development sessions to help individuals to develop their skills in sales, sales management, relationships, communication, assertiveness and effective presentations.
  3. Business Relationship Coaching – most people at times come across people in business with whom they find it very difficult to develop and maintain a positive working relationship. These relationships might be with colleagues, clients, suppliers or business partners. Coaching in this area will look at how the coachee can develop the relationship.

The coaching might be a combination of all three and might also include exploring issues outside as well as inside work.

How does it work?

Every business coaching relationship is different depending on the needs of the individual and the business. Some relationships will be as short as a one-off coaching session to address a specific issue and others will be over the course of six to twelve months.

When faced with a choice to fire or offer coaching, you want to work quickly and effectively to reduce the impact on the business and so an intensive programme of, say, six sessions at weekly or fortnightly intervals would be appropriate with further ongoing coaching for a period of three to six months afterwards perhaps. Typically it would involve a preliminary session to establish the relationship, clarify roles and responsibilities and to agree the focus of the sessions.

Business and executive coaching will often involve a three-way ‘contract’ between the business, coachee and coach. This would include agreeing what will remain confidential between the coach and coachee and what will be fed back to the business.

What are the benefits?

The potential benefits to the business are:

  • Retention of an executive who might be performing in some areas but not others
  • Substantial cost-savings
  • Enhanced performance – you might release even greater talent
  • Alignment between the goals of the business and of the executive
  • A consistent message about performance management

The potential benefits to the executive are:

  • Keeping their job
  • Enhanced performance
  • Self-awareness – becoming aware of their own behaviour and the impact they have on others
  • Challenge and motivation from an independent, impartial catalyst
  • A space to explore challenges and to take action to change

Being realistic we have to appreciate that there is no guarantee that the coaching will work as it depends on the willingness and ability of the executive to change his or her behaviour – but isn’t it worth a try? So don’t just fire an executive – offer them coaching.

This article was written by Jacqueline Harris of Auric Results Limited, a training and coaching company that enables individuals and businesses to achieve results beyond dreams. For more information see their website or contact Jacqueline on 0118 9690783.

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