Coaching skills: Create a protocol for solving grievances

Coaching skills: Create a protocol for solving grievances

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Aug 23, 2005

There are two things every employee wants to know:
1. Where are we headed?
2. How am I doing?

If employees don't receive feedback within 30 days, believe it or not, they start making things up! It's always best to keep people informed. To train and coach others, you need to understand the process of giving feedback. This includes how and when to do so, when not to give feedback, and what are effective actions to use.

We train dogs, but we should nurture people. Negative reinforcement is like obedience training with a prong collar. There are better ways. Trainers should be mentors, and must find what strengths to build upon for each person. A plan should be developed for each individual to teach them what he or she needs to know for his or her particular function in the practice. This plan should be thoughtful and caring. What are you trying to accomplish? What do you want to learn? How can I help you get there? Your employees should be made accountable, and it creates pride in their achievements.

Customers entering the veterinary healthcare system are stressed; they don't know what is wrong with their pet, the outcome or the costs. Your staff is the first and last contact with your client, and that means they leave the first and last impressions of the practice. Each staff member should feel confident in his or her education, medical knowledge and customer service skills to aid clients.

The practice as a whole must discuss, debate and implement patterns of concerned care. Each staff member must be trained to the point that they understand why they are doing what they are doing, and they can consistently perform within the standards set by the team.

When to use feedback?

  • When you are asked about your opinion on performance of a task or action.
  • When errors are continuing to occur.
  • When you find others work habits disturbing (excessive tardiness, chattiness, messiness).
  • When employee performance does not meet expectations or standards.

Effective actions: State the constructive purpose of your feedback. If not, you are judging or blaming. Clarifying your points from the outset provides focus for the conversation and allows the person receiving the feedback to be clear where the conversation is heading.

Make statements like:

  • "I have a concern about..."
  • "I feel I need to let you know that..."
  • "I want to give you feedback about how you are coming across..."

Describe what you observed. It is very important to be specific and focus only on what you have seen, rather than opinions or rumors. When giving feedback you should have a specific event or action in mind.

  • "It made me angry when I had to run across the room to pick up the phone because you were too busy having a conversation with the receptionist."

Describe your reactions.

Most people learn better when they have some idea about how their behavior is impacting others around them. Give examples about how you and others were affected by that behavior.

  • "My reaction to that was..."
  • "I'm confused about why you thought that was OK."

Give the other person a chance to respond. Allowing the other person the opportunity to respond to your feedback is a basic courtesy and a good chance to check for miscommunication.

Offer specific suggestions. Feedback is rarely constructive if it is made up only of negative criticism with no indication that your purpose in giving feedback was to make things better. When possible offer a suggestion for change. When not, admit that you don't know of a solution but that you are bringing this into the light so that something can change.

Summarize and express support. By summarizing, you avoid misunderstandings. It is also an opportunity to show your support for the other person. End on a positive note by communicating confidence in the person's ability to improve the situation.

  • "I know you didn't intend for this to happen. I appreciate you working with me to solve the problem."

Whenever you communicate with anyone in the practice, recognize that self esteem is a basic human need. This is especially important for coaches, trainers and mentors. Be specific with praise for good efforts. Use phrases such as:

  • "I appreciate that you....because…"
  • "Thanks for taking the time to..."
  • "Because of your support I was able to..."
  • "You did an exceptional job on..."
  • "I thought...was particularly effective because..."

Never criticize the person, only the action. Use praise instead whenever possible to shape more effective behavior. Here are some more tips:

Connect a feeling with a fact. Show empathy with phrases such as:

  • "I understand how (feeling) it can be to experience that...(fact)."
  • "From what you've said, it sounds like you're (feeling) about (fact)."
  • "All of you have the right to feel (feeling) because of the way this (fact) was handled."

Demonstrate your involvement in the problem.

  • "What do you think should be your/our next steps?"
  • "I have a situation I am facing and could use your help."
  • "Who else do you think needs to be involved?"

Share your experiences; help the person learn to think and handle problems on their own. Don't always solve problems for your employees.

  • "Let me tell you about an experience I had recently and what I learned from it. Maybe it can help you think of other ways to approach the project."
  • "My bigger concern is...because..."