Your EARs are Key to Good Coaching

The best leaders make coaching and developing others a priority. Think back to a coach or past boss who positively impacted you and why. You likely recalled fond memories of how you felt in the presence of that person and ways that you grew.

There are three main purposes of coaching:

  • Reinforce performance
  • Improve performance
  • Model or teach performance

In your coaching others around performance, it’s critical for each of your team members to have a clear picture of your expectations of both their individual goals and the team goals. It’s your job as leader to monitor and track performance, recognizing successes as well as addressing mistakes and shortcomings.

One tool we’ve introduced to clients to help them give both positive and developmental performance feedback is a process we call EAR. EAR stands for outlining Expectations, acknowledging the Action that the person took or did not take, and defining the end Result. For example, suppose you have an employee named Carol. One of Carol’s goals is to develop an onboarding process for new employees by the end of the quarter. You have asked Carol for progress reports and haven’t received any. As far as you know, Carol doesn’t appear to have started working on her goal, and it’s half-way through the quarter. You overhear Carol tell a colleague that she is swamped with other work and hasn’t made much progress. In using the EAR format, you could say:

“Carol, I’m anxious to see the work you’ve accomplished on your goal of developing a new onboarding process. We agreed that you would be updating me on your progress. We are halfway through the quarter and I haven’t received an update. I’m concerned that you may not be as far along with this project as I had hoped. If we don’t launch an improved process next quarter, the hires we’ll be making won’t receive the attention and information they deserve. Can I help you in some way?”

EAR Worksheet Process

Instructions: Prepare an EAR Worksheet for an employee whose performance you wish to recognize or to improve. Remember to record the following:

Expectation or situation: This may be a restatement of a performance expectation or a description of the specific situation you encountered or observed.

Action: These are the specific actions you or another employee/associate took in the situation. These statements record behaviors, not assumptions.

Results: These are the outcomes or results of your or another employee/associate’s actions.

The EAR tool is part of our larger program entitled, High Performance Leadership.