I recently attended a coaching course in Singapore run by the Center for Creative Leadership. It was an intimate group of seven with two facilitators. Amongst the nine there were eight different nationalities; I was the only Australian and the only person from education. The remainder were from the corporate sector, multinationals from China, Indonesia, India and the Netherlands.

It was fascinating to hear stories from the corporate sector in relation to coaching. The pressures to meet key performance indicators (KPIs) by certain deadlines is immense. The frustration on the part of supervisors is palpable. They have a continuous internal conflict going on. On the one hand they have a deep empathy and value for people, while on the other hand, they are compelled to reach set targets or risk their own position.

These supervisors were at the course, like me, to learn how to be more effective coaches. They genuinely want to see their colleagues grow. But when do you cut your losses and shift a person to a performance management process?

The key is to never allow your decision-making to be compromised by in-justice. People are more important than KPIs. Are the targets realistic? Has the person put in their best effort to meet those targets?

My expectation is that everyone is growing, including me. This view is not at the expense of accountability. Of course I would be asking why a target isn’t met, or if there were extenuating circumstances that impacted the person’s ability to perform. But it is growth that I expect to see, and growth can be accelerated with effective coaching.

A key role of a leader, and particularly one who is focused on building trust, is coaching.

It is when a person has been supported, or at least genuinely offered coaching, and you don’t see growth that it is time to shift to a performance management process. Nothing is more frustrating for other staff than a team member who refuses to share the load and grow. Trust isn’t damaged by tackling under-performance head on. Staff look to you to deal with the issues and trust you to treat people fairly and with respect.

Trustworthy leaders value people and support their growth, but they are also have the wisdom to know when it is time to let a person go.