How to use a job description to improve staff performance

Job descriptions are a great management tool that is often ignored by leaders and managers. After all, once hired or promoted, people should know what they need to do and just do it. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.

In my previous blog posts I wrote about the top 10 reasons for writing a job description and I also showed how to write one using my job description template. You can download that here as well as the sample job description.

One of the ways to use a job description is to conduct a one-on-one coaching session. The main purpose of this is to assure that you and your direct reports have clear mutual understanding of what the job responsibilities and tasks are. As well, it is a way to set performance improvement goals.

You might already have department or job goals so this might be a compliment to those objectives. However, in my experience small and medium size business owners and managers often do not set clear expectations of performance.

One of the main benefits of doing this type of coaching session is that people will feel more supported and this added attention will provide some needed motivation and a feeling of importance.

Before conducting a one-on-one coaching session using the job description, prepare yourself by starring the top priority tasks or those that bring the highest value to the organization. This usually equates to 20% of the tasks. So if there are 20 tasks on a job description, there are 4 that bring the most value when performed well.

Steps to conducting the one-on-one coaching session

  1. Make sure both the employee and the manger are in agreement of the requirements of the job. This might take a first meeting before advancing to the rest of the steps.
  2. Discuss what is being well performed in the job. Ask the employee what they feel they are doing well and then add your comments and reinforce theirs’.
  3. Identify and discuss the top priority tasks, those that performed well bring the most return to the organization.
  4. Discuss one or two goals to put into action relative to the tasks of high importance
  5. Establish any external constraints that are hindering performance. These could be things like lack of information, resources, communication from others that the employee does not have full control over.
  6. Establish any internal constraints that are hindering performance. These are behavioural issues such as motivation, resistance to change but could also be lack of knowledge and skills for certain tasks.
  7. Discuss solutions to the constraint issues. Ask them what they see as the solutions, discuss and agree.
  8. Discuss action step to be accomplished for next meeting on both your parts to overcome the constraints and move forward on the goals.
  9. Set next meeting date. It is extremely important to establish this before you end the meeting so there is a sense of urgency and accountability established.
  10. Add the date to your agenda and or shared calendar.

This approach can be used at every level of the organization, even starting at the top with the business owner or CEO. If this is not done in every organization both large and small, the boss might find himself doing some of the work of his managers and so on. I will cover this further in future articles.

Please share your experiences on applying this or similar approaches to improve performance through role clarification and one-on-one coaching.

Stephen Goldberg

Business trainer & coach


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Working Together & Leading Change is written by Stephen Goldberg, an entrepreneur, business trainer and coach. Stephen specialises in strategic planning, leadership, team development and sales. His experience is that being effective at working together is an essential element in business and organizational success and can be what makes the difference between good and great companies. Real collaboration is only possible through developing a culture that values continuous improvement and mutual support for realizing vital goals.

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