Performance Coaching at Work: What, Why, and How to Do It in the Workplace

Sam Cook


Group of employees in an office doing a team high huddle with hands together.

Performance coaching is a powerful tool for anyone who aspires to develop professional skills and progress in their career. Corporate leaders agree that it is critical to advance not just the employees’ careers but also the entire organization. Companies now spend billions of dollars on performance coaching to help employees and executive leaders improve the critical skills that boost their productivity and performance.

But what does performance coaching entail? And how do you find a good performance coach to deliver continuous improvement and help achieve your performance goals?

Keep reading to find out how you can work with performance coaches and why.

What Is Performance Coaching?

The performance coaching process is defined as helping an individual, especially aspiring leaders, achieve professional growth by identifying their strengths and weaknesses. The goal is to help employees find ways to improve and optimize their skills in the workplace.

When you work with a performance coach, it usually involves one-on-one coaching.

The performance coach works closely with the manager or executive leader in the performance coaching process to achieve desired goals. Most performance coaches focus on improving decision-making, increasing motivation, and focusing on values.

  • During a performance coaching session, the coaches will provide continuous support and encouragement to the trainee.
  • Throughout the process, the participant will be evaluated to address any weak points and to look for ways to strengthen those areas.
Performance coaching meeting between two men standing in an office chatting.

Enhancing the results of performance coaching requires all parties to become involved. It takes a proactive approach for the participants to ensure that any progress made brings them on the right track toward achieving their long-term performance goals. Therefore, it is coaching on an ongoing basis as there is the belief that there will always be another level to aim for and focus on improving.

Feedback and collaboration are the cornerstone of a successful performance coaching program. Open communication and collaboration also ensure you have the tools you need to map out the steps to reaching your performance objectives.

Performance Coaching vs Executive Coaching vs Life Coaching

When most people think of coaching, they often bundle it together as a collective concept (e.g., life coaching, executive coaching, etc.). That’s typically not the right approach, however. Although “coaching” exists in the name, the target audience and purpose can dramatically alter what that coaching looks like and how it works.

If you fail to understand the nuances, you may create a barrier to meeting your performance objectives or, if you’re in charge of creating coaching programs, your approach may not meet the needs of your program’s participants.

A top-level understanding for how these are different looks like this:

  • Performance coaching helps individuals grow in their career.
  • Executive coaching uniquely targets the skills executives need to be effective leaders.
  • Life coaching is more generally focused on learning how to overcome obstacles that make progress in life goals difficult.

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It’s true that life and performance coaching have a common goal: to help you with specific areas in your life that you need improvement. Life coaching offers a holistic discipline. It tackles mostly the psychological and spiritual issues in one person’s life. Life coaches can help those struggling with personal relationships, careers, and other life issues.

When it comes to executive coaching, there are some areas where it can overlap with performance coaching. For example, both types of coaching aspire to help improve one’s professional and business performance. But the purpose of improving performance differs.

A business coach helps clients in growing their businesses and hitting business milestones. For instance, they can help small business owners to take necessary steps toward reaching corporate levels. Business and executive coaches enable business owners to set a vision for their company and build the steps to achieve that.

But with a performance coach, their focus is on the individual, not the organization or business. It goes beyond a mere pep talk. The goal is to help individuals and aspiring leaders identify their strengths and weaknesses to reach their goals faster and perform better.

Benefits of Performance Coaching

No matter what type of work environment you are in, there’s always room for improvement. And that’s where performance coaching comes in. The old notion that employees must strive for improvement independently is gone. Organizations now play a significant role in training employees to ensure they are equipped with the skills they need to thrive in their role at the organization.

So, what are the benefits of working with high-performance coaches? And how does it impact the employee’s performance?

1. Personalized, tailored personal development plan

Two women sitting at a table in deep discussion about performance mentoring.

High-performance coaching work with each employee or individual through dedicated one-on-one sessions, which are essential since every employee is unique and has different needs.

By working with each individual, performance coaches can assess their partner’s needs and what steps they need to take to get to the level they aspire to be.

During the initial assessment, performance coaches might be able to ascertain that their partner needs to improve their time management skills.

Meanwhile, others must work on their communication skills, especially when collaborating. The challenges for each individual to grow professionally and personally differ tremendously, and it is the job of performance coaches to assess that and develop a plan.

Once that part is over, the performance coaching moves on to the next step: the tailored development plan. Now the real work begins toward bettering the employee’s performance.

Working directly with performance coaches is advantageous because each individual gets individualized attention and a personalized plan offering hyper-relevant inputs on where they must improve. Typical training methods, such as workshops and webinars, are not as effective since they are too broad and less relevant to the specific needs of the employee seeking professional advancement.

Coaching requires more investment from both parties, ensuring they can experience a thorough absorption of skills and knowledge.

2. Flexible delivery of the coaching process

Another key benefit you can enjoy with performance coaching is the flexible delivery of the training process. The traditional training methods of sitting through two to three hours of training videos and seminars no longer work. Meanwhile, a strong coaching culture hinges on flexibility.

There are several ways to deliver coaching sessions to employees that aren’t bound by time or location.

The flexibility of creating an ideal coaching environment is another component of a tailored personal development plan. It ensures that the form of instruction and the delivery of real-time feedback encourages the participants to learn quickly and to adopt their learning in practical circumstances.

Some employees learn and improve when they can step away from the work environment and focus on continuous improvement. Performance coaches can also set up sessions this way if it is more effective.

3. Show support to employees

Employee performance is often directly proportional to the support they receive at work. It usually looks like this:

  • High performer? —-> Less support
  • Low performer? —-> More support

That’s not ideal, although it may seem intuitive on the surface. After all, high performers already have everything they need…right? Not always.

High-potential employees are often more likely to quit because they feel they’re not receiving enough development opportunities. They want to be challenged, and they want growth opportunities. However, because many employers often think their HiPos already “get it,” they put more resources into low performers to bring them up to speed.

This is why HRIS software company Humi notes that high-potential employees often leave because they don’t feel challenged. “Employees need fresh, new opportunities to engage their creativity and contribute to their career development. If you aren’t providing the space for them to reach for their aspirations, it may cause them to move onto other roles that will,” Humi explained.

Sometimes, people need that extra push and encouragement to take their performance to the next level. It’s common for employees who have been working in an organization for some time to get comfortable and stagnant as they no longer seek development.

Performance coaching can encourage employees to access the resources they need to reach their goals. It also boosts the employees’ confidence, knowing they are able to ask questions freely and get real-time answers to those questions.

4. Challenge employees to improve and grow

Remember that Humi quote you just read? Let’s extend that a bit further.

Following the above, some employees who are tenured or have job security may no longer need continuous improvement since they don’t have the motivation. Performance coaching can help boost the quality of your workforce in this scenario.

Challenge employees to seek professional development using performance coaching. Not only can this benefit the organization in terms of productivity, but it also helps you gain more commitment from employees in their respective roles. The more engaged employees are, the more effective they are in their roles. You can use coaching to transform the organizational culture and mindset!

5. Improve leadership style

Performance coaching helps leaders and executives boost performance and develop new leadership strategies. It also enables leaders to identify areas in their work performance to improve.

While each leadership style is unique, performance coaches can provide honest feedback to corporate leaders based on organizational needs. Performance coaching helps identify problems some leaders might not even be aware of.

Improving leadership is challenging. Reverse mentoring is an effective solution to help bring new perspectives to executive leaders. Check out our Mentoring Soundbites video on reverse mentoring and be sure to subscribe to get updated when we release new content every Wednesday at 8 AM EST.

6. Prepare employees for any challenges

Coaching is not just about deriving good performance from your employees. When your employees undergo this process, everyone in your team can develop new skills and adopt a new mindset about their roles and work performance. It also makes them better prepared to tackle any challenges they could face in the organization.

Employees who engage in performance coaching gain more confidence in their abilities. And this process boosts employee engagement and morale. When morale is high among your employees, your organization becomes better prepared for disruptions and gains a competitive edge.

7. Improve employee retention

Contrary to popular belief, performance coaching isn’t just for “problematic” employees. Anyone can use performance coaching because it helps everyone, even high performers. And as we already noted earlier, your high performers strongly desire more development, so ignoring them in this process is a costly bet.

Replacing employees has a huge price tag: As much as two times that employee’s salary. For high performers, that cost may be increased due to the loss of the productivity and value they bring to the team.

Not sure how to measure retention for your coaching programs? Request a demo to see how MentorcliQ’s software pairs your HRIS data to key retention metrics.

A successful coaching program is tailored to each individual’s needs. That makes a performance coaching program uniquely capable of benefiting those struggling at work or those who want to advance their career.

A coaching program is a continuous process, not just a one-time thing. As a result, employees have higher job satisfaction because they see themselves as valued contributors to the organization. They know their roles and the impact they make on the organization. And performance coaching makes them feel like they can offer more that will make them an asset. It’s a great avenue to deliver constructive feedback to your employees.

When to Use Performance Coaching

Performance coaching enables employees to develop the necessary skills to improve performance. Whether time management or boosting productivity, coaches can help them address those issues.

Following are examples of scenarios when hiring a performance coach would make sense.

1. Address negative emotions and behaviors

Performance coaching is necessary when you want to address negative emotions and behaviors from your employees. Conflict and toxic work culture are not uncommon, but it does not mean you have to leave them unaddressed.

Working with coaching for performance is an excellent approach to addressing these issues, especially if they stem from certain individuals.

Working on individual employees is important before promoting collaboration and teamwork within your organization. Coaching can address negative behaviors and emotions, such as:

  • General fears
  • Inferiority
  • Lack of self-esteem
  • Fear of public speaking
  • Low morale

On the flip side, performance coaching helps employees suffering from the inability to work with others or narcissism to become grounded. Personal development is closely tied to career development methods.

Performance coaches shine in addressing these issues and helping your team navigate conflicts or challenges by working on the individuals. The goal isn’t to teach employees a particular skill but to help them maximize their potential.

2. Navigate career change and transition

Part of an employee’s vision for career success might involve a career change. Whether moving to a new department or stepping up the corporate ladder, performance coaching can guide this transition period in one’s career.

Handling this major shift isn’t easy when you have to deal with it alone. But with the help of a performance coach, you will get honest feedback on what you must adapt to fit into the new role.

3. Improve self-awareness and self-reflection

Man and women interviewing on a coach about performance goals.

Self-awareness is a critical skill that every employee must possess. Leaders need to develop self-knowledge, which is why performance coaching is highly valuable in the corporate work environment, as leadership development is critical to organizational success.

Once you identify your strengths and weaknesses, you can take steps to address your weaknesses and maximize your strengths. It takes a combination of self-reflection and constructive feedback from others to gain the professional development you seek.

Coaches can offer innovative ideas for you to work on your weaknesses or to compensate for them. It’s all about aiming for continuous improvement.

4. Boost creativity

Creativity isn’t something you are born with, but it certainly is a thing you can develop. Creativity is an important skill, especially as part of performance management.

Opening your mind to new ways of thinking can allow creativity to run wild. A change in mindset will help you develop innovative ideas and see things differently than what you are used to.

Creative thinking and innovation are vital, especially for leaders. It helps make your organization a force to be reckoned with.

Key Factors to Successful Performance Coaching

What does it take to succeed with coaching? These are critical factors that impact your success in this endeavor.

  • Know your objectives: Establishing a clear purpose ensures you can analyze and measure your success at the end of each coaching program. Without a clear purpose, you’ll struggle to identify the measurable goals and outcomes for the program and for individual coaching relationships.
  • Seek input: In a successful coaching program, the employee can also give input on the coaching program, so asking questions and keeping an open mind is encouraged. It helps ensure that everyone feels safe and supported.
  • Trust is key: Trust is a must in any relationship, as is in coaching. It is also critical in meeting your objectives. Make trust a priority so that employees can openly share their struggles. It can happen as a result of effective and open two-way communication.
  • Find employee motivation: Ask guiding questions so employees can find their motivation. With proper motivation, they are more committed to following up on the performance management program. It speeds up your way toward reaching your goals.
  • Monitor performance regularly: It helps to develop a sense of accountability for employees for their own performance. Once they see how much progress they’ve made, they are inspired to work to improve performance. They can obtain continuous feedback and seek ways to deliver positive changes to the organization they’re a part of.

Fostering a Learning Culture Through Performance Coaching and Mentoring

Fostering a learning culture in your company is vital to your success as an individual employee or an organization.

Employees who aim for personal and professional development are more adaptable to changes and challenges. Performance coaching also instills in them the value of shared learning, which enables your team to work as one cohesive unit toward achieving the organizational goals. If you want to prioritize growth in your organization, it’s time to give that performance coach a call!

Performance coaching is not a one-size-fits-all approach to any organizational issues. Need to know where it fits in with your organization? Book a demo to learn how MentorcliQ’s software can supercharge your employee development goals.

Sam Cook