Michael comes to you to assist him in being more effective in the workplace. He has recently started in a new position and finds it difficult to communicate with his manager who does not seem to have time for him.

As the coach, how would you help this client?

There are a couple of issues that need to be looked at in the coaching conversations. Is Michael’s desire to be more effective based on an invalid / incorrect belief that he is not meeting the expectations of his manager? In what way has Michael contributed to the current situation? How can Michael improve his communication with his manager?

Strategies and exercises

Increasing his effectiveness in the workplace: Because not all people perceive effectiveness the same way, one of the first questions you would need to ask Michael is: “What does effectiveness mean to you?” And “what does it mean to your manager?” With Michael being new to the position it is possible that he does not have a clear picture of what is expected of him.

Once Michael has a clear understanding of what is expected from him in his new role, you can work with him to create a baseline situation using different sources such as:

  • Interviewing the manager to get his view of Michael’s performance against the agreed expectations
  • Reviewing the last performance appraisal / feedback provided
  • A self-report from Michael using scaling questions such as “on a scale of one to ten with one being not effective at all and ten meeting and exceeding the job requirements, where would you rate your current level of performance?”
  • 360 Feedback

It will be necessary to ask Michael further scaling questions to gauge his level of commitment in increasing his effectiveness at work as he can’t afford to outsource the responsibility for his own professional performance and development to his manager. Continue the process by creating a shared understanding of what has contributed to the current situation and work with Michael to address each of these areas by setting SMART goals and implementing steps to take conscious action. It could be that there are obstacles preventing him from being effective such as a skills gap, the lack of resources and support or conflicting priorities to name a few.

Remember to keep the language positive and solution focused. It is not a conversation of blame, but realistically looking at possible unintended messages Michael sent in his behaviour that could have contributed to the current situation. Encourage Michael to set clear standards by which he can measure his own performance thereby reducing the need for feedback from his manager.

The communication challenge: It is possible that Michael only perceives his manager as not having time for him and that it is not actually the case? Work with Michael to get a clear understanding of what it is that makes him say that and what the evidence is that supports the belief. As coach you would assist Michael in considering the alternatives by asking questions such as “is it possible that Paul (the manager) does not realise that you need more guidance?” Or “could there be another reason that Paul has not spent much time with you?”

Michael might not be comfortable to approach Paul and could need additional support from you as coach. Work with Michael to visualise himself and Paul engaged in a constructive conversation with a positive outcome. Ask Michael to be very specific about what he noticed in his behaviour and choice of words. Build on the positive state by engaging Michael in a role-play activity where you play the part of Paul thus allowing Michael to put his new skills to use.

Keep encouraging Michael and build on his strengths in working with him to achieve his goals.

Written by Sanet Fraser, Life Coaching Institute Marker and TeleClass Facilitator.