Introduction to “Coach – Mentor – Counselor.” The “science” and the “art” of managing people.

As began three days ago, I suggest there are three Business Modules which can be used to gain leverage and simplify the science when managing others. We are looking at them one blog at a time. 2 days back Coach. Yesterday Mentor. Today Counselor.

The purpose of the Counselor is to Confront.

This model is based on the principle that negative behaviour not confronted will continue. While positive behaviour not acknowledged [see Coach – give praise] will not.

Here are the “how to’s” of an effective counselor.

Give information. Specific facts, information that cannot be disputed – period! Opinions matter but do not have nearly the leverage of hard facts. Build your case in detail and present plenty of evidence, information, facts, to support it. It is trickier than it sounds.

Give suggestions. Avoid giving advice. The counselor model is most frequently used with an under-performing employee and if the person is at low levels of the compliance ladder it can prove dangerous to dispense advice. They might well follow your advice to the letter, maliciously, hoping that it will not only not work out but not work out and be blamed on you, your advice, which turned out to be flawed. The employee gets off the hook by blaming you when things go off the rails. However … …

Right about now it may be timely to mention a concern that several people expressed during my day long in-person seminars. These were savvy, smart and experienced leadership people. They commented that making suggestions to under-performers is just not strong enough communication. I get where they were coming from.

Consider however, that just maybe it has more to do with exactly how the suggestion is made that can weaken the impact. “Might I make a suggestion?” is certainly polite yet lacking in assertiveness. “Here’s a suggestion which I recommend you seriously consider.” Assertive for sure, and, for me at least, contains a forthrightness that leaves no doubt of the strength of character of both the messenger as well as the message.

Try it out, experiment and test the hypothesis for yourself.

Also, suggestions, not advice or instructions, have a stronger legal footing. After delivering information [the behavioural problem] follow up with suggestions [possible solutions for the problem] and allow the person being counseled to make choices to select their preferred solution. They no longer have the legal “out” of malicious compliance.

Get Information & Get Suggestions. After give be open to get. Get information and get suggestions from the under-performing person. Get their perspective, their “side” of the story and take in all the information that you possibly can with your listening ears firmly affixed and utilized. Seek out insight from others; get information and suggestions from co-workers and colleagues of the person being counseled; ask union representatives; consult with peers, strategic alliances; do some research on ideas from industry experts etc.

Another caution: when getting input from others be careful not to violate employee privacy; discuss the issue not the person. Business organizations, Governments and industry associations in many sectors are having hissy fits about possible privacy violations in this area. I’ll willingly admit that my worries could be overactive paranoia on my part, or it might be reflective of the harsh reality of business in today’s litigious climate. Exercise great caution.

Referral to resources. Avoid the arm-wrestling futility of “you versus them” by referring to resources. The most important resources and ones that must be in place and current in your workplace are:

  • Employee Handbook
  • Job Description
  • Performance Evaluation System

Many organizations are lacking these 3 critical resources. If you and your business system are deficient, well … don’t try to “fix” them [the people] until you first “fix” the deficiency [your lack of a system].

Additional resources to be referred to include generally accepted industry standards, government regulations or laws, health & safety rules, union guidelines, employee contracts, articles in business periodicals, newspapers, magazines or blogs, social media, business books, CD’s, training events, industry experts, and so on and so on and so on.

Finally, referral to consequences. Consequences are naturally occurring negative results of continued negative behavior. You cannot impose, introduce, or threaten consequences. You can only refer to consequences. Make direct reference to consequences that will naturally follow and become masterful at distinguishing punishment from consequences [punishment gets resistance and resentment; consequences get results].

Counselor model to confront.

Return tomorrow for Blog #5: Wrap Up and we’ll put a big bow around it.