Coaching Your Direct Reports: Where Should You Start?

Coaching Your Direct Reports: Where Should You Start?

As a leader, your time is valuable. So when you consider who on your team you want to spend time coaching, the concept of leverage becomes extremely important: what investment in time gives me the biggest bang for my buck? The challenge is that most leaders are putting the limited time they have into coaching the wrong people on their team. This table shows that for leaders who are putting huge amounts of time into coaching C-Players, the best outcome they can hope for is to turn them into a B-Player (an average result). Basically you’re shooting for mediocrity. Wow. The next level up is to spend a medium amount of time and have a B-Player become an A-Player. That’s a solid result but it still has a significant time investment. Let’s shift to the top row: coaching an A-Player requires a small amount of time but can lead to a significant outcome, an A+ Player (superstar).


Whenever we ask leaders how much spare time they have, the answer is almost always the same, “I’m swamped” or “I’m busy.” So if you only have limited time to coach your team, why not focus on the people who require the least amount of time and provide the greatest outcome from a change in their behaviour? Once they are on the right track, then move your way down to your B-Players. C-Players are performance management issues that you have known about for a while (come on, be honest with yourself) and aren’t dealing with: move them to another role or help them find meaningful employment outside your organization that better suits their strengths (if you’re not sure what their strengths are, try using StrengthFinder 2.0). In the long run you’ll both be happier.

This leads to the inevitable question, “But my A-Players are already solid at their role so what can I coach them on?” My guess is that you have something in your role that you’d love to hand-off to someone else (something good and meaty, not your expense report). Hand that over to an A-Player and coach them on being successful in that new area of responsibility to free up time for you to have more whitespace, to think more strategically, or to ask your boss if they have anything they’d like off their plate (which is always a good career move).

Mike Desjardins

Mike is a a graduate of UBC’s Sauder School of Business with a Bachelors of Commerce, Mike has spent the past 21 years transforming businesses.

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