Coaching for Improved Performance

How to Create Employee Change

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Looking for improved performance and better coaching

Consider that we learn best not by being taught or by studying or reading. Rather, we learn best by experiencing and then reflecting on what we did, what happened, and then drawing conclusions and experimenting.

Kolb's Learning Cycle Expanded to fit Today's World

Kolb's experiential learning theory (ELT) was given by David Kolb, who published his model in 1984. He was inspired by the work of Kurt Lewin, who was a gestalt psychologist in Berlin. ELT it is a method where a person's skills and job requirements can be assessed and measured in the same language. Kolb's theory works on two levels: a four-stage cycle of learning and four separate learning styles.

Much of Kolb's theory is concerned with the learner's internal cognitive processes. His theory has a holistic perspective which includes experience, perception, cognition, and behavior—an excellent formula for coaches to measure clients

Since 1984, David Kolb's Learning Cycle has been elaborated upon and expanded to fit 21st Century behavior and needs as follows:

  1. Life gives us gifts in the form of opportunities to experiences.
  2. Coaching provides the opportunity to get feedback from these experiences—this is achieved by questioning and clarifying.
  3. Further probing and questioning creates insights and common themes which lead to the learner reflecting on the experiences, the action taken, and the consequences.
  4. From these insights and personal discoveries, conclusions are drawn that, if sufficiently powerful, can relate back to other current or past situations.
  5. The valuable lessons learned from this exercise are then applied to future situations in the form of experiments.
  1. From these experiments, results and further opportunities arise to learn more, and the cycle goes around again.

Here's an example of a situation that needs coaching and how it can be handled. The manager of a department says he can't work with a member of his staff because the employee doesn't do anything they are told and the manager doesn't want to "have to write everything down for her." 

Broadly speaking, this coaching process involves three parts: Commendation, Recommendation, and Commendation. Here's a look at the three-step process and how you can handle the example above:


First, commend the employee for any significant duty they recently carried out well. This will help set the tone of the meeting and help diffuse any hostility. Be careful not to sound patronizing.


  1. Get straight to the point. "The purpose of this meeting is to ____" or, "I want to spend some time discussing the XYZ situation with you."
  2. State why you're having this conversation. "I have a concern about ____" or, "A problem has occurred in this area."
  3. Describe the behavior causing the problem. "I noticed that you ____" or, "When I was told that you made this decision, I looked into it and discovered this result." (Provide evidence, if necessary. Never try to coach or discipline on hearsay. During the discussion, make sure you focus on behavior rather than on personalities.)
  1. Explain the consequences of this behavior. "The customer would see your behavior as uncaring." Or, "The effect of your lateness caused your workmates to ____."
  2. Describe how this behavior makes you feel. "When you behave in this way, I feel _____."
  3. Ask for the individual's point of view. "This is how I see it. What's your perspective on the situation?"
  4. Ask the employee to assess their behavior. "How do you think your manager felt when you ____?"
  5. Review the employee's job competency requirements. For example, assess their understanding of the job description to ensure you both have the same expectations of the tasks or duties.
  1. Ask how they'll correct their behavior and how they'll convince you they carried through. "What's getting in the way for you?"  "How confident are you that you can change?" Or, "What can you do to convince me that you will change this behavior?"
  2. Ask them to say, in their own words, what they'll specifically do to change. "Tell me in your own words what you'll do differently as a result of this discussion. What do you anticipate the outcome will look like if you are successful in making the changes? In this way, you're effectively empowering the employee to change themselves. By approaching change in this way, the employee is setting their own standards by which they'll assess his own behavior.
  1. Decide on the actions the employee will take. "Let's both agree that you will do the following and then we'll review the situation in three months."
  2. Summarize your agreements. "To recap, you said you will do the following, and I will do this."

In the end, you may realize that the employee wasn't lazy or delinquent. Rather, they just learn things differently than others and your directness allowed them to change.


Finish with another positive comment because the last thing said is remembered the longest. Dignity is everything and if you destroy it, you undermine the employee's self-confidence which reduces their commitment to change and can create hostility and apathy. When employees feel valued, they want to change. If employees feel undervalued, they ended up not caring.