Coaching for Performance #1 – PLANNING

This is the first of three Posts on the subject of Performance Management and how the leader can drive for business results with coaching. Post #1 – Planning Performance. The next two are Supporting Performance and Reviewing Performance.

What does planning performance involve a leader doing? What options does the leader have for the way they invest their time? How does the leader add value? What are typical coaching goals? What resource material does the leader need as a platform for the coaching? What tools does the leader need from the Coaches Toolkit? I start with an overview of planning performance. I then draw on the experience of two senior leaders I have worked with and observed in action.


This Post is written for Leaders of Others who have a team of Individual Contributors reporting to them. Consider a coaching strategy for coaching for planning performance that combines a kick off one-to-many session followed by two or three short (say 30-45 minute) one-to-one sessions with individual direct reports. You could wrap the process up with a one-to-many review session. This is just a suggestion. Your exact process will depend on your circumstances and stage of team development. Take a view with your manager/coach. Sessions can be incorporated into regular team meetings for the one-to-many, and into your pre-planned one-to-ones for individual coaching. Here’s a great Harvard Business Review article about Making One-to-Ones More Productive.

Coaching Goals

Suggested goals for the leader when coaching for planning performance include:

  • Assess the battle readiness of the team and individual direct reports.
  • Identify priorities for development as the basis for future coaching for development.
  • Align team and individual SMART goals to the business strategy.
  • Diagnose any barriers and gaps in current and future expected performance as the basis for future coaching for performance.
  • Engage the team and individuals in specific goal setting with the associated metrics and their means of measurement.
  • Gain acceptance for overall business goals and supporting tasks, roles & responsibilities.

See ‘Grow – Goal’ in the Techniques section of the Coaches Toolkit.

Coaching Focus

The four areas of focus or subjects of your coaching when you are planning performance with your direct reports are:

  1. Ensuring Capacity, Skills & Readiness

This means identifying and developing team capacity and people capability. There is a strategic leadership aspect to capacity and capability. This involves the leader continuously auditing the current state through regular performance reviews. It also means working with stakeholders to anticipate future needs and then planning for the right number of direct reports in your team with the right skills. On a more tactical level this involves the leader prioritising coaching for development subjects with each of their direct reports. This will be either for performance recovery or to realise further potential. A simple binary choice. See the Personal Development page.

Platforms: the business strategy, previous performance reviews plus a record of individual and team achievements versus goals.

Tools: from the Coaches Toolkit include Coaching Preparation, AIDA Guidelines for Feedback and Log Book.

  1. Establishing Shared Goals

This means identify needs, expectations, barriers and the impact on all partners. It means the leader establishing stretch goals and standards of performance for themselves and for direct reports designed to achieve positive business results. It also means ensuring direct reports have meaningful and measurable tasks and SMART goals for which they realise they have clear accountability.

Platforms: standard operating procedures (SOPs), SMART goal checklist and team and individual goals/KPIs.

Tools: from the Coaches Toolkit include Coaching Contract and Using the GROW Model.

  1. Focusing On Key Tasks

This means translating strategic priorities into specific tasks for your direct reports to achieve business goals. You keep an eye on the big picture and, when required, reprioritise your goals and tasks to align with the strategic priorities. You target the right tasks and opportunities, making sure you focus on long-term organisational goals at the same time driving for short-term results. You evaluate current opportunities as well as past achievements to ensure tasks will move the business forward and stretch and motivate your team. When allocating and delegating tasks you take account of the skill/will (capability and engagement) of the individual.

Platforms: the business strategy, individual and team goals, job descriptions.

Tools: from the Coaches Toolkit include Situational Coaching and Delegation Discussion Planner.

  1. Creating Metrics

This means establishing criteria to track implementation and results, including lead and lag measures. Make sure lag metrics are outcome based. Lead measures can be based on achievement of milestones or deadlines. No valuable metrics are based on activities. Activities are the means (HOW) not the end (WHAT). Make sure there are not conflicting metrics that pull people in different directions or put people in negative competition with each other. Wherever possible work with existing measurements and processes. Create new or adapt existing reporting and make it VISUAL and ENGAGING. Make sure the people involved know at any one time whether they are WINNING. Set a frequency of reporting appropriate to the business cycle and the ability of people to respond and make adjustments. Use a coaching approach to engage the people involved in creating their own metrics and systems.

Platforms: management information reporting (MIR), visual management system (VMS).

Tools: from the Coaches Toolkit include Benefits and Outcomes of Coaching



In my June Post ‘Executive Presence’ I explained how I spent an enjoyable five year period in my recent career as an independent executive assessor working with one of the world’s leading firms in this area. In 2004 one of my candidates was Paul. He was a particularly strong operational manager working in a heavy industry. I notice from his current LinkedIn profile he now holds a senior role in his company. Here is how I summarised in my report the way Paul approached his performance planning:

Operational Management (Strength). “You formulate plans and set goals to realise business results. Consider leveraging this strength by looking behind and beyond the immediate issue, and seeking longer-term people and performance development opportunities”.

Spotting Opportunities (Strength). “You do not always spot opportunities for people, team and business development. However, where these are presented to you, you read the situation well and put processes and systems in place to deal with them. Practice looking for the wider implications of issues that present themselves to you. Take a broader organisational view of opportunities and be prepared to engage with others outside your immediate domain to realise the business benefits”.

I have been working with Keith since 2010. Here is how he recently described the context for Performance Management:

“Performance management is much more that the numbers and the system. We apply systems for performance because we want to succeed. I want to succeed. I want my direct report to do more of the heavy lifting. It is about wanting others to become better so they can become more successful in producing results. It is about creating an environment of performance without the fear where people talk and give each other feedback. It is creating an environment which ultimately is about winning”.

Further Reading: Performance Management

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Author: Trevor Sherman

Trevor Sherman: Author, Blogger and Coach. What do I do? I develop leadership training material and personal learning modules. I am the owner and operator of this Blog. I coach senior executives for their development and role transition. I am based in Northamptonshire UK and operate globally - in person and through technology.

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