Coaching steps: Avoid these pitfalls!

Last month I wrote about coaching and six characteristics to becoming a successful coach. I heard from some of you that you’ve tried those steps in the past but, in spite of diligent efforts, still failed to excel with your team. A great lesson I’ve learned over the years (from personal experience and working with hundreds of coaches) is that coaches and leaders need to deploy grassroots, day-to-day strategies to be successful.

As a result, I decided to follow up this month with six tactical issues (“pitfalls”, if you will) that prevent coaches from being optimally successful. These issues require particular attention with each employee and may require you to dedicate extra effort, especially in the near term. However, long term, addressing each issue will position you the greater, sustained coaching success so many desire.

If you’re ready, here are the six pitfalls:

  1. Your employees don’t know what you want them to accomplish. Often times leaders provide goals that are not clear or employees don’t have “line of sight” over them. For instance, they’re told to grow loans when they don’t have any influence over loan decisions and, therefore, don’t know how their efforts actually grow loan volume. This is most prevalent in the Teller area where Tellers aren’t involved in the application and approval process. How can they grow loans when the credit union’s underwriting guidelines and risk tolerance determines if the loan is approved or not? The line-of-sight goal for Tellers should be Loan Referrals, which will lead to Loan Growth.
  2. Once you’ve clarified what the goal is, now a good coach needs to show each employee how they should go about accomplishing their goal. What are the specific behaviors you want from each Teller to generate those Loan Referrals? What should they listen for while interacting with members? What should they look for while processing the transaction? What tagline should they use to make members aware of special loan promotions? You can’t count on Tellers to inherently know how to produce referrals; a good coach gives crystal clear examples to help them be successful. This should be the focus of your sales training but also the daily leadership provided by sales coaches.
  3. So, you’ve given them a clear goal and shown them the desired behaviors, now they should be good to go, right? Not so fast. Many times, a coach fails to properly motivate employees to be successful. A wrong assumption many credit unions have made is that every employee is motivated by money. Further, many coaches assume that all employees are motivated by the same thing. Studies have shown that most employees are not turned-on by money and would rather receive time off, more responsibility, or personal recognition instead. The job of a coach, regarding motivation, is to determine what the primary motivator is for each employee. Some employees will tell you how they want to be motivated; others will demonstrate their preference. But it’s amazing how a coach can see a quantum leap in performance simply by changing and personalizing the proverbial carrot.
  4. The next pitfall is hard to change sometimes but critical, nonetheless. An inhibitor to success for many employees is the physical environment in which they work. In the earlier example, a Teller may be less successful because they work at a window that is very noisy. For many loan officers, they feel hesitant to review credit reports with members because their desk doesn’t provide privacy. A Business Development Officer doesn’t review a member’s financial profile because they can’t get a good Wi-Fi connection out of the office. Often, the biggest part of a coach’s job is simply to minimize and eliminate the physical barriers that prevent staff from being successful.
  5. Once you’ve done the first four items, it becomes the coach’s responsibility to observe performance and provide feedback. When you see an employee perform well, give them positive feedback so they’re encouraged to do it again and again. When you see negative performance, provide feedback so you can correct the performance going forward. If you don’t give any feedback, you lose control of the employee’s desired performance and don’t know if they will produce positive or negative results. Two keys to success with giving feedback: 1) provide it as soon as possible after the behavior is observed – the sooner you provide it, the more impactful it’ll be and the more likely the employee will perform positively with the next member they serve; 2) be as specific as possible with your feedback message – instead of just saying, “good job!”, say, “Good job with Mrs. Smith! I really liked the way you used her name and shook her hand at the beginning of the transaction.” Specific, actionable feedback delivered in a timely fashion will position your coaching to yield the greatest results.
  6. I’ve saved the next pitfall for last because it’s the hardest to overcome. However, the coaches and organizations that deal with it quickly and thoroughly are the ones that experience the highest levels of production and overall performance. By far, the most challenging pitfall is the realization that you have employees in the wrong positions; you’re expecting certain employees to do something they will never be able to accomplish. Their personality is not conducive to the role they perform. In short, in spite of the best coaching in the world, they will never succeed. At this point, a coach needs to get that person out of their seat on the bus and, sometimes, off the bus entirely. Far too many coaches spend far too much time trying to get a low performer to be average only to see them fail again multiple times. It’s an agonizing process … the coach tries diligently to get the employee up to speed but the employee is not making a similar effort and/or they will never realize the desired outcome. This is particularly true with new hires – accept a wrong hire early and move past it – and with long-tenured staff – those who have been in operations roles but now are being expected to perform in a sales role.

Legendary Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry said, “A coach is someone who tells you what you don’t want to hear, and has you see what you don’t want to see, so you can be who you have always wanted to be.” In a nutshell, a coach’s job is to get each staff member to be more than they have been in the past. To see what they need to do and how they need to do it to take their performance to much higher levels. Avoiding the pitfalls above will help you take your staff to where you and your credit union need them to be.

If you or your credit union would like to enhance the consistent, daily performance of your coaches, my firm would be happy to help. Please contact me at or 636-578-3280.

Paul Robert

Paul Robert

Paul Robert has been helping financial institutions drive their retail growth strategies for over 25 years. Paul is the Chief Executive Officer for FI Strategies, LLC, a small but mighty ... Web: Details