Increased productivity in your Registered Representatives, that is, getting them to perform from 20 percent to 30 percent of capacity to performing nearer 80 percent to 90 percent of capacity is the goal of most managers.

Rather than employing the traditional solutions to continued underachievement (firing, demoting, etc.), you may be able to salvage those employees who have the potential for making significant contributions to your team. Using certain counseling techniques described, you can spend relatively small amounts of time and more fully realize the potential of those with whom you work or employ.

When you first recognize that an employee isn’t fulfilling his job responsibilities, call the person in and determine the cause (see the previous issue of Broker-Dealer magazine). Regardless of the cause of his substandard performance, you will have to counsel him about his performance and your expectations for the future.

People often become defensive when counseled, and you can never guarantee that someone you counsel will do what you wish. However, there are several things that you can do to minimize a person’s defensiveness and increase his motivation to change. Here are 10 rules of thumb for any feedback situation taken from The Effective Manager: Being the Best in Financial Sales Management, a book I co-authored with Karl Gretz. (The book is out of print, but often available second-hand at A more comprehensive article is available free by writing

1. Be sure to choose an appropriate time and place before you give feedback. A good rule of thumb is: “Praise in public, rebuke in private.” It is generally unwise to respond to someone when one or both of you is angry or upset. Wait for a calm time.

2. Always establish rapport before you begin to counsel. It communicates that all important “I care” message. Take a few minutes for both of you to get comfortable, otherwise you run the risk of a defensive employee and reduce the probability that the coaching session will be effective.

3. Make sure you understand what he or she means and, especially, what he or she feels. Paraphrasing is useful here. Repeat back to the person what he is telling you, so he knows he’s being heard and understood.

4. Discuss the individual’s behavior rather than the individual. For example, you say: “Joe, it’s important that you be in to work on time each day,” instead of, “Joe, you have developed the bad habit of coming in late to work.”

5. Share your observations rather than interpreting why he/she did something. If you don’t know what someone is thinking or feeling, don’t guess, ASK! For example: “Bill, you haven’t completed your assignment for the last three days. Is everything all right?” instead of, “Bill, it’s obvious that you don’t care enough about this company to even complete the projects assigned to you.”

6. Describe what you feel and what you have experienced rather than making judgments about the other person or his or her actions.

7. Avoid extremes or generalities. No one is all good or all bad. Avoid words like “always” and “never.”

8. Encourage self-empowerment by assisting them to discover their own solution. Avoid giving them advice. If your advice is bad (or improperly followed) and fails, they may blame you instead of taking responsibility for the outcome themselves. If your advice is good and it works, you may gain a dependent.

As a rule, aid your employees in their exploration of alternatives until they feel comfortable in making a decision for themselves. Even if you have a better solution, let them try theirs and experience the consequences either good or bad (unless their idea is illegal or unethical and/or will endanger them or the firm).

9. Only give the as much “feedback” as they can handle. Most of us have many habits or failings that we could afford to improve, but when someone shares all of them with us at once they can be a little overwhelming. In most cases, it’s best to comment on only one or two behaviors in a given meeting. Once progress has been made in those areas, praise them for their progress, then go on to the next area for change.

10. Take your time. Everything doesn’t have to be accomplished in one counseling session.

Setting Goals in Coaching

When you sit down with an employee to discuss his progress or concerns, help him to establish meaningful goals. Remember the requirements for establishing a goal described in greater detail in the more comprehensive article.

The goal must be stated in positives.

The goal must be in his control.

The goal must maintain the positive aspects (positive from the employee’s point of view) of his current situation.

The goal must be economical; that is, it must not cost more than it is worth.

The goal must be measurable. Be sure that you both understand how his performance and progress will be measured for instance, by making 10 sales presentations per day as well as 20 prospecting calls.