Soft Skills: Who Needs ’Em? (You Do!) — Part 2

Norb Slowikowski / October 2017

Last month we talked about creating a competitive advantage in the marketplace by continually improving productivity and never accepting the status quo. Blending hard skills, which create an organizational structure, and soft skills, which develop cooperative relationships between management, employees and customers, will give your company an enduring competitive advantage.
Last month we also plunged into successful communication techniques. Examples include being specific when talking to someone, and being a good listener when the situation is reversed. I also talked about barriers that could ruin good communications, such as sarcasm and distractions like phone calls or inappropriate body language.
This month we continue the journey by delving into an eight-step coaching model that will guide you when you need to coach your employees.

Step 1: Be Supportive
Start with a positive remark.
But keep the focus on improving performance. (Don’t get distracted.)
Be sure to avoid criticism and blaming. You want a good result.

Step 2: Discuss Issues & Expectations
Ask the employee, “What’s really happening right now?”
Be specific when discussing the problem at hand.
Get the employee’s input about his/her views of what happened.
Deal with the issue, not the person.

Step 3: Establish Impact
What are the effects of the employee’s behavior or actions? For example: Rework causes delays on the job, costs additional money and upsets the customer.

Step 4: Initiate a Plan
Collaborate with the employee to develop an action plan to resolve the issue.
Clearly specify who will do what by when.
Create mutual ownership for solving the problem.

Step 5: Gain Commitment
Both parties must promise to do what needs to be done to solve the issue and remove the obstacles so this does not happen again.
Any party saying “I’ll try” is not giving an acceptable response.

Step 6: Confront Resistance
Frustration may emerge, but excuses and resistance must be overcome immediately. The frustration can’t fester.
Move forward to achieve desired results and let it be known—in a positive way—that negative behavior will not be tolerated.
Both parties need to focus on taking action to resolve the problem.

Step 7. Clarify Consequences/Don’t Punish
Implement the plan.
Communicate both positive and negative consequences.
Let the employee know that failure to act could result in termination if the plan is not implemented.

Step 8: Don’t Give Up
Follow up and check on what the employee is doing to resolve the issue.
Be willing to provide additional coaching, if necessary.
Continued poor performance is unacceptable. On the other hand, if the employee solves the problem, positive reinforcement and an incentive is completely reasonable.

Coaching demonstrates that you value your people and want to keep them. It’s a process for creating mutual responsibility and forward looking action. Trust the process.

Norb Slowikowski is president of Slowikowski & Associates, Inc., Darien, Ill. To contact him, email