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Section 14
Coaching Supervisee Behavior

Question 14 | Test | Table of Contents

1. What are the actual facts of the situation?
Don't trust your emotional recollection of the effects of the behavior - what exactly has been or is being done improperly? List the offense(s) objectively. If you're in doubt about what happened, seek out confidential, firsthand observers. Never list what you think: List what you know.

For instance, don't settle for being told something like, "Ann was late twice last week in the middle of our busiest selling season." Dig a little deeper. You might discover that Ann arrived four minutes late on Thursday and eight minutes late on Friday, but she worked through her lunch hour both days.

2. What is the specific behavior you want changed?
Remember, we aren't discussing attitude. That's not behavior. If it is an attitude problem, talking about the specific behavior could reveal it and address it. For instance, addressing poor performance (behavior) by Frank could reveal his resentment (attitude) over what he considers unfair work assignments. Explaining assignment rationale and sharing its long-term benefits for the whole team could help restore acceptable performance levels.

Here again, be specific about the behavior you want changed. Is changing the behavior a one-step process, or might it require many steps over a period of time? Will Frank need short-term productivity goals that you and he review weekly? Will he need outside training on the processes or equipment critical to his job? Think it through!

3. What open-ended question(s) could create dialogue?
"Terry, we have a problem with your decision to (name the behavior). How do you see us resolving it together?" Or, What steps might we take to make it easier to (state the correct behavior) in the future?" These are open-ended questions. As you'll learn on the next page, open-ended questions don't put supervisees on the defensive. They help put both parties on a healing offensive by encouraging dialogue -because they demand more than a "yes" or "no" response.


Are you responsible for this error?What can you tell me about this problem?
Will this step solve the problem?What can we do to make sure this will solve the problem?
Do you understand what you're supposed to do?Is there anything about the job that might still be a little unclear?
Are you going to meet the deadline?What steps would help you meet the deadline?
Have you finished the Acme job?Where are you on the Acme project?

4. How can you establish the need for change?
To establish a need for change, the counselor should show how the specific behavior affects three areas:
o The individual
o The group
o The organization
Consequences stated in this way etch the full impact of the behavior in the team member's mind - and puts the focus on the problem instead of the individual.

Mike: I should have finished this manuscript a long time ago, Ellen. You've been more than patient. I'm sure I can finish it soon now.
Ellen/Coach: Can you give me an idea how soon that might be?
Mike: Well ... I have to fit in some other account demand, unfortunately, so ... I'd say three weeks. Maybe four.
Ellen: If I give you five weeks, would you feel comfortable about committing to a final deadline?
Mike: I can't imagine why not.
Ellen: Good. Because after that date, the department release schedule would be badly affected - which means the entire organizational publication projection would be thrown off.
Mike: Makes the script sound pretty crucial.
Ellen: Right. Missing this deadline would do more than affect your chances for future scripts. It could hurt the company's bottom line.
Mike: Then I'd better get busy. Thanks for giving me the whole picture, Ellen.

5. Who has been assigned responsibility for the problem?
Who is responsible directly? Indirectly? Include yourself in the latter category, because it's not just the team member's problem. It's your problem, too - not just because of organizational policy, but because you have team standards that won't be compromised.

Many supervisors tend to place the real concern about the employee's problems or substandard behavior "up the ladder." They make it seem as if company standards are strictly a top-down issue. That tendency shows itself in remarks like, "They will come down hard on me if this continues ... "or "The company expects you to change because ... ." Such an approach may seem to free the counselor from being the "bad guy" in a confrontation - but it creates three deadly long-term problems:
o The employee receives the implied message that you wouldn't object to the behavior if you were in a position to set a more reasonable policy.
o The behavior will only become less obvious ... hidden from the unreasonable policy-setters above ... but won't be gone altogether.
o You'll find it almost impossible to expect compliance from that employee when it comes to future direction, because you look powerless. Make sure he understands that you own the issues and problems.

6. How will you help to achieve change?
Answering this one must always mean a time commitment. Change happens over time. Will change mean returning to mentoring in some areas? Will it mean involving "referral" agents to more thoroughly equip the team member? Prepare in advance your commitment alternatives, and remember: No change is possible without a time investment.

7. What are the minimum standards you will accept?
Decide in advance what standards are non-negotiable and define them during the counseling session. Such nonnegotiables (attendance, procedures, work output, relational activities, etc.) should be in writing ... specific and measurable. If you don't have those formalized guidelines, you'll find yourself in "agreement" trouble. Know what your minimums are and why - and at least three ways your team member can accomplish those minimums.

Standard: 40 hours per workweek
Compliance options/opportunities:
a. 9 am, to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday
b. 8 a.m. to 2:45 p.m., Monday through Saturday
c. 8 am, to 6 p.m., Monday through Thursday
Standard: Meet weekly production schedules
Compliance options/opportunities:
a. Set daily goals
b. Review progress and problems with group leader every evening
c. Hire temporary help, when needed, using money from year-end bonus fund
Standard: Be at work on time
Compliance options/opportunities:
a. Buy new alarm clock or ask co-worker for wakeup call
b. Go to bed earlier and/or leave for work earlier
c. Join a department car pool

8. What rewards can and will you give?
Remember, rewards aren't bribes. They are not carrots supervisors must dangle in front of team members before they can expect decent performance. Rewards are important aspects of performance management, however. We all expect positive consequences for positive effort - and they doesn't necessarily have to involve money.

Here are a few examples of the happy little "extras" that will communicate (1) your appreciation for positive change in employee performance and (2) your intention to respond positively to such accomplishment in the future.
o Use of the company tickets to a sporting event
o Gift certificate to dinner and/or a movie
o Written or verbal acknowledgment in the presence of peers and/or superiors
o Personal time off
o Extended lunch or break time(s)
o Work-related gift (pen, pocket calendar, desk plant, etc.)
o Special outside training events
o Promotion
o Bonus or salary increase
- Hendricks, William (ed.), Coaching, Mentoring and Managing, National Press Publications: New Jersey, 1996

Personal Reflection Exercise #7
The preceding section contained information about eight ways to eliminate unsatisfactory supervisee behavior. Write three case study examples regarding how you might use the content of this section in your practice.

Supportive supervisor behavior and helping behaviors in the hotel sector:
assessing the mediating effect of employee engagement and
moderating influence of perceived organizational obstruction

-Zhu, Y., Obeng, A. F., & Azinga, S. A. (2023). Supportive supervisor behavior and helping behaviors in the hotel sector: assessing the mediating effect of employee engagement and moderating influence of perceived organizational obstruction. Current psychology (New Brunswick, N.J.), 1–17. Advance online publication.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Aarts, H. (2019). Goal setting theory and the mystery of setting goals. Motivation Science, 5(2), 106–107. 

Amaro, C. M., Mitchell, T. B., Cordts, K. M. P., Borner, K. B., Frazer, A. L., Garcia, A. M., & Roberts, M. C. (2020). Clarifying supervision expectations: Construction of a clinical supervision contract as a didactic exercise for advanced graduate students. Training and Education in Professional Psychology, 14(3), 235–241.

Castiello D'Antonio, A. (2018). Coaching psychology and positive psychology in work and organizational psychology. The Psychologist-Manager Journal, 21(2), 130–150.

de Haan, E., Molyn, J., & Nilsson, V. O. (2020). New findings on the effectiveness of the coaching relationship: Time to think differently about active ingredients? Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 72(3), 155–167.

DePue, M. K., Liu, R., Lambie, G. W., & Gonzalez, J. (2020). Examining the effects of the supervisory relationship and therapeutic alliance on client outcomes in novice therapists. Training and Education in Professional Psychology.

Kovacs, L. C., & Corrie, S. (2021). Formulation as a foundation for navigating complexity in executive coaching. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 73(3), 271–288.

Pugh, M., & Broome, N. (2020). Dialogical coaching: An experiential approach to personal and professional development. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 72(3), 223–241.

Williams, J. S., & Lowman, R. L. (2018). The efficacy of executive coaching: An empirical investigation of two approaches using random assignment and a switching-replications design. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 70(3), 227–249.

To establish a need for change, the supervisor should show how the specific behavior affects which three areas? To select and enter your answer go to Test.

Section 15
Table of Contents