Coaching for Improved Work Performance

Author

Ferdinand F. Fournies

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Book Review

"Coaching for Improved Work Performance", by Ferdinand Fournies, is an excellent resource for every Manager Tools manager.  While the book takes a slightly different approach to feedback and coaching, it complements the guidance given by Mark and Mike, rather than contradicting it.  The core of the book is about giving regular feedback and focusing on behaviours.  If you want an additional resource to help you come to grips with the Manager Tools trinity, this book is well worth your consideration.

 
Ferdinand Fournies has spent over two decades studying management and consulting, speaking and teaching on the subject of managing people and their performance.  This book is, in many ways, the distillation of that knowledge and experience.  The goal of the book is to equip every manager with the theoretical underpinnings of behavioural management, and then provide practical guidance on how to apply this theory to the modern workplace.  The author's practical experience is evident throughout the text; far from being a dry academic work, it is very easy to see your own managerial challenges -- and their solutions -- in every chapter.
 
The book is split into two broad sections.  In the first section, the author essentially deconstructs performance management.  Topics such as "Why Managers Fail as Coaches", the title of the first chapter, and "What is Behaviourism and Why Does It Work?" (the core topic of Chapter 5, and in many ways the whole premise of the book) are covered in a deep yet practical way.
 
If you're like me, and always want to know what makes things work beneath the surface, the first part of this book is gold.  While the Manager Tools podcasts are always practical, actionable, and can easily be demonstrated to work, the "why" is usually not touched on.  A thirty minute weekly podcast isn't the right venue for a theoretical analysis.  In many ways, the first part of this book reads like the "missing podcast" to much of Manager  Tools' guidance.
 
The second part of the book builds on the theory of the first section to provide a practical description of how to manage people's performance more effectively.  The tone of the guidance will be familiar to every MT afficionado.  It is practical, actionable, and -- as I can attest to first hand -- very effective.
 
Don't expect to get a rehash of what you can get out of the MT podcasts, or an Effective Manager Conference, though.  Ferdinand Fournies has his own take on what performance management looks like.  I described it to a colleague as "what the Dark Mark might really look like".  I believe this is due to a focus on late-stage intervention, rather than steady-state incremental performance improvement.
 
The impression I got from this book overall is that the author was targeting the audience who wants to know "how can I avoid having to terminate this poor performer", rather than "how do I make my top performers even better than they already are?" That's not to say that the techniques in this book couldn't be applied in that situation.  Applying the "Coaching Analysis" (the subject of Chapter 9) to your top performers would definitely help you help them to improve further.  It is simply that the examples in the book are based around turning a poor performer around.
 
Overall, though, this book is a well-written alternative view of the principles underlying the Manager Tools philosophy.  If you are interested in broadening your view of the "MT universe", or if you're trying to apply the Manager Tools Trinity to your organisation and something just doesn't quite feel right, I think this book is well worth the time and money.