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How Do Your Employees Want to be Treated, Supported, and Motivated?

Every employee brings unique characteristics to the workplace, from how they take their coffee to how they process feedback from their leader. Knowing this, leaders can avoid a cookie-cutter approach during the coaching process. When consistently executed, a personalized performance management approach can transform the coaching relationship between leaders and their teams.

By definition, a team is a group of people working together towards a common goal. But your team members may or may not have much in common besides what brings them together in the workplace. Why does one team member take coaching in stride while another silently retreats to his office? What delivery style works best? Should you just stick to the facts? Are they wanting more?

Effective coaches know the answers come down to personality. Below are a few tips to consider when coaching team members as unique people with unique needs.

How Straightforward Should You Be?

There are two components in any communication exchange: what is said and what is heard. Individual preferences for candid versus tactful communication greatly impact what your team member hears and whether they want to continue listening.

Employees comfortable with direct communication want you to tell it like it is—the good, the bad, and the ugly. They prefer concise, straightforward feedback and instructions. When they do not receive this type of communication, it's frustrating to them. They may feel disrespected without direct communication, negatively affecting the coaching experience.

But not everyone likes the straightforward approach. Employees who prefer a more tactful communication style need you to choose your words carefully. This preference of style doesn't mean you should bend the truth during workplace coaching. Every employee needs honest feedback. But they may also need to feel encouraged and validated. Balancing criticism with praise, and offering explanations and discussions for sensitive issues, can make or break this employee. Without this balance, they may lose confidence in their performance at best and feel disrespected by you at worst.

Do They Want to Talk About Their Feelings?

Emotional expression in the workplace is more prevalent now than ever. Still, comfort in hearing and talking about emotions is different for each person. Some resist, and some lean in.

Practical discussions make some team members most comfortable, impacting how they respond to feedback. Rather than exploring feelings—theirs or others'—they prefer to focus on facts and solutions. Maintaining emotions and keeping them to a minimum is important in coaching sessions with individuals who prefer to be objective, as the practical personality often seeks an objective sounding board to work through issues.

If the emotional meter starts to tick upward, these employees may lose interest altogether in the feedback you are providing. To avoid this reaction, you can:

  • Create an action plan with the employee to fix any issues
  • Separate issues from emotions
  • Foster matter-of-fact interactions 

Providing specific desired outcomes should be the foundation of your coaching method for practical team members.

As beneficial as fact-based coaching is for some, it is ineffective for others. Employees who lean into exploring their feelings about your feedback may become discouraged without the opportunity to feel heard. This may also cause them to magnify problems and make decisions based on feelings rather than facts, jeopardizing their success and the team’s.

Since these team members process coaching more subjectively, you can:

  • Provide opportunities to them to feel heard
  • Give them time to process the feedback
  • Create a safe space where they can honestly express emotions

Whether they are excited, angry, or fearful about your feedback, don’t just let them tell you. Encourage them to tell you. This is a critical part of creating psychological safety, which is key to open discussions in which team members let their guards down.

How Are They Motivated?

What motivates one employee can frustrate another, furthering the need for personalized coaching. Some team members prefer individual recognition, while others want the team to win together. Respecting these needs has a significant impact on job satisfaction and how employees respond to coaching.

Too much focus on group success can be dissatisfying for team members who thrive on competition or seek individual rewards. They may become overly competitive, take unnecessary risks to get ahead, or lose trust in their team. This does not mean these team members don't want the group to win. It just means they feel more motivated when their contributions are recognized.

When coaching employees who like individual rewards, try the following tactics:

  • Be careful not to focus too much on group success
  • Highlight their unique efforts and behaviors during coaching conversations
  • Make your feedback as specific as possible, which will help these employees do their best work moving forward

Though individual recognition is comfortable for some, team rewards motivate others. They prefer a minimally competitive environment that emphasizes teamwork. Without this backdrop for a coaching conversation, they may lose trust in the process and fail to protect their own interests in favor of protecting the team. But while teamwork is always an admirable quality in an employee, they must also be a strong advocate for their own development.

When coaching more team-oriented employees, try the following tactics:

  • Be careful not to compare them to colleagues
  • Focus on the team's positive impacts and how the employee reflects team values
  • Take the lead in discussions around promotions and salary, as team-oriented employees may feel guilty for focusing on their individual development without factoring in team needs

Each team member's personality is unique, and the delivery of constructive feedback should be unique as well. In your coaching conversations, put personality in the room and change the shape of your performance management process. And, if needed, restructure your coaching model to make it more effective by treating employees how they want to be treated, supported, and motivated.

How does personality affect how your team members respond to coaching? Learn more about each employee's unique needs in our Signature Report and take the first step towards better coaching conversations.

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