ManufacturingStories is a place where everyone can learn about and share information on the many exciting programs available to help revitalize & modernize manufacturing in America and to help bridge the skills gap between education and the workplace.

Coaching Employees When Something Is Going Wrong with Performance

By Bruce Tulgan

As a manager, you should always be keeping track of your employees’ performance, developing their skills, and meeting regularly to discuss what’s going right, wrong, or average. But when there is a performance issue with a particular employee, the importance of regular one-on-one meetings becomes even more apparent. You will probably need to increase the frequency of your regular discussions with that employee for a little while.

When you are considering what days and times to meet with an employee, you are often limited by your schedules. Sometimes the time you meet is dictated completely by logistics. Sometimes the best time to meet is a matter of moods.

Sometimes the best time might be indicated by a performance issue in particular. Let’s say you have an employee who is chronically late to work. Some managers try to deal with that problem by scheduling early morning meetings. I happen to think that if you want to help an employee arrive on time to work, the best time to meet with that employee is at the end of the day, just before that person leaves. The next item on that person’s to-do list will be coming in to work – which is exactly what you want to focus on at the end of your meeting: “I want to remind you that we start at 8:00am in our office. How long does it take you to get to work?” Have that conversation a few times at the end of the day, before the employee leaves, and I promise you that employee is likely to start coming to work on time.

But perhaps a tougher question than what time of day is best to meet with an employee is how often to meet with each employee.

First, keep this in mind: Most of your employees need to talk with you about their work a lot more often than you would guess, and much more often than they currently do. This is especially true of employees with a glaring performance problem. I always urge managers to force themselves to meet more often than they think necessary, until they know exactly what the person is doing – where, when, why, and how. Over time, you will need to meet less often.

Second, most people need to talk with you more when they are new to a job, or working on a new task or project, and then less over time. Has your problem employee recently started something new? Remember that it’s a moving target. You’ll have to start meeting more often again if the employee gets a new task, responsibility, or project; if the employee slows down, starts missing details, or develops a behavior issue. As things improve, you can step back again and meet less often.

Employees who don’t perform well might require one-on-one meetings every single day to start. Maybe even as soon as they come in the door, to help them set priorities, establish next steps, and spell out expectations for each new step.

That conversation – coaching an employee into their role – takes fives to fifteen minutes. If you have employees who need a lot of coaching and guidance, try coaching them into their roles every time they walk in the door. Watch their performance improve radically in miracle time.

For some employees, even that’s not enough. Particularly low performers might need to be coached twice or three times a day, or they slow down and lose focus. But at what point do you say enough? Deciding that an employee requires so much of your management time that it’s just not worth it is a tough business call. You have to consider whether this employee is much less able, skilled, and motivated than other employees that you could hire from the available labor pool. Sometimes, depending on the job and the people available for it, the only way you are going to get high performance consistently is if you commit to high-intensity management.

The Basics of Providing Context –  Part One

Giving the Gift of Context by Asking the Right Questions – Part Two

Defining ‘Good Citizenship’ in the Workplace – Part Three

About the Author

Bruce Tulgan is an adviser to business leaders all over the world and a sought-after keynote speaker and seminar leader. He is the founder and CEO of RainmakerThinking, Inc., a management research and training firm, as well as RainmakerThinking.Training, an online training company. Bruce is the best-selling author of numerous books including Not Everyone Gets a Trophy (Revised & Updated, 2016), Bridging the Soft Skills Gap (2015), The 27 Challenges Managers Face (2014), , and It’s Okay to be the Boss (2007). He has written for the New York Times, the Harvard Business Review, HR Magazine, Training Magazine, and the Huffington Post. Bruce can be reached by e-mail at, you can follow him on Twitter @BruceTulgan, or visit his website