Deidre Paknad, CEO of Workboard, Interview with HireVueAn interview with Deidre Paknad, CEO Workboard

Organizations are finally moving away from annual performance reviews to more frequent performance conversations or 1on1s because it turns out a once-a-year performance conversation does little to improve performance -- surprise!

While I think the move towards frequency is great, the thought of people just doing it wrong more often terrifies me. I can’t help but remember the worst boss I ever had. We shared a massive sales territory and spent hours in the car. Yet what should have been a formative time in my early career was destructive and disturbing.  He chain smoked with the window cracked, refused to pull over if I needed a restroom (truth), and when it was time to give me “constructive advice”, he looked me square in the eye and said “Don’t hook up with anyone in your training class.”

Welcome to 1on1s circa 1995.

I still feel anxiety around 1on1s. I recently interviewed Deidre Paknad, the CEO of Workboard and an expert on the subject of how to deliver and receive effective 1on1 coaching.

According to Paknad, “the most effective coaching feels like a sports coach giving a great athlete advice on how to race, run or play at their highest ability. If you're the athlete, that's just what you want and need. If you're the coach, it's the fastest path to helping members of your team play and perform at their best."

Below, we look closer at the three simple ways Paknad says the world’s best coaches make honest, constructive feedback addicting.

1. Coaches stay relevant

Coach and athlete start with shared goals and understanding of what victory is, and this fuels the relationship and coaching conversations.  Whether on the field at practice, or reviewing performance footage, coaches deliver feedback that can be applied to the results and goals the athlete is trying to achieve. Feedback is in consumable bites that can be quickly applied and the benefits of the coaching insight are experienced almost immediately. Athletes begin to expect, then crave this highly effective, highly relevant coaching because they’re motivated to achieve results.

When managers and employees rarely talk about improving performance, neither is very good at it," says Paknad. "Managers go into the conversation with anxiety about their delivery and ability to be candid. Employees go into it not knowing what to expect and with their guard up. Everyone loses the opportunity for growth.”

Practice makes perfect -- and perfecting your ability to coach and be coached is the key to awesome performance.  More frequent conversations provide more timely feedback and, more importantly, frequency improves the quality of the conversation. People are more comfortable giving and getting feedback when it’s a regular part of their world. Less drama and anxiety equals more authenticity.

Commit to greater frequency. Younger employees may need 30 or 45 minutes a week, while a more tenured executive may only need 15 minutes every week or two.  By keeping coaching muscles warm managers improve the impact of feedback on actual performance and potential.

2. Coaches start with the right intention

A great coach makes sure the athlete understands two things: 1. “I’m your biggest fan.” 2. “My intention is to help you be your best and grow your skills.” Once that foundation is established between coach and athlete, coaches skip the inefficient sugarcoating and athletes trust that the advice is intended to help them achieve their best.  Can you imagine a world-class athlete getting offended or defensive when their coach suggests a technique?  Nope, they’re hungry for any insight that will improve their results.  

50% of managers fear being the bad guy. Because of that anxiety, instead of coaching, managers default to empty cheerleading.  “It’s the ultimate disservice to employees because they don’t get the opportunity to learn or improve on something the manager believes should be done better,” says Paknad. “The employee is ripped off as are the manager, the team and the company -- the elephant was left in the room because being popular got in the way of being effective.”  

While managers’ may have anxiety about delivering what might feel like “negative feedback”, it turns out 57% of employees say they prefer corrective feedback not just positive feedback, and 72% say it would improve their performance.   Step up and coach your people with the intention of helping them achieve their best.  

3. Coaches always calibrate

The “sport” is business, so it’s important to calibrate on three things in each 1on1: employees’ engagement in the business and team, actual performance, and their alignment with organization goals.   Paknad calls it the “EPA” and likes to use a meter to see how people are doing in each area.   

“Don’t leave an elephant in the room.” says Paknad. “Performance can be undermined by low motivation or high frustration, so talking openly about engagement empowers you to address issues quickly.  When a person is focused on the wrong outcomes, their performance will be low value -- course correct so their performance and yours improve in real time.  Many performance issues can be prevented by talking regularly about these two issues and this practice supports a more effective conversation about actual performance.”

As more organizations move away from annual reviews towards frequent 1on1s instead, they will need managers to be more skillful and self-aware to drive the desired impact on performance and employee retention.     

When coaching is done effectively, employees should walk away with the confidence of an athlete ready for their best game with clarity on the results they want to achieve. They should be proud of their strengths, empowered to build on them and have specific actions or techniques they can use to improve. They should be excited about the opportunities that lie ahead and motivated by the next effort they will make, hungry to hear people cheering in the stands.

If you'd like to learn more about effective coaching, check out this infographic and feel free to embed it on your site:


how to coach during 1 on 1 meetings 


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