My last two HRzone posts described the basic communication skills that CEOs need to conduct effective one-to-ones with their direct reports, and the secrets to getting the best results from such meetings. Often, the purpose of a one-to-one coaching session is to secure a change in the behaviour of a direct report. The particular challenge here for a CEO is to remain professionally positive when the natural tendency is to be negative – especially when working with difficult employees.

The following guidelines will help you to coach in a positive fashion during your one-to-ones.

Focus on the behaviour, not the person. You are trying to change the person’s behaviour in general, not just in a specific situation. So bring with you several different examples of the behaviour you want the employee to change.

Make a specific request for change. Tell the person what you want them to do as a result of having the one-to-one conversation with you. Think it through beforehand, identify the best time to introduce the request into the conversation, and be very clear about what you want to accomplish.

Make the request short and to the point. For example, “I want that report on my desk by 10am every Monday,” or “I want you to spend one full day each week out in the field coaching our salespeople.”

Come to an agreement on the new behaviour and put it in writing. Having a written agreement prevents any misunderstandings and provides an important accountability tool.

A CEO cannot avoid these kinds of conversations. However, bear in mind that coaching isn’t only about confronting and changing behaviour. In fact, 70% to 80% of it should be about acknowledging and recognising performance. Use the Rule of Four described in my previous post, and aim for four times as many recognition conversations as confrontation conversations.

Coach more and do less

Ultimately, your growth as a CEO and business leader will come from doing less, thinking more, and coaching others to step up to the plate and take on more. Of course you have to run the business, but you don’t have to get submerged in all the operational details.

To maximise your performance as CEO, use the one-to-one process to get clarity with your direct reports, coach them to better performance, and provide the accountability and calibration they need to get the job done. By so doing, you free up your time and energy to become a better strategist, ambassador and inventor to create real increased market value for the company.

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