What does it take to achieve 100 percent coaching effectiveness? To find out, we turned to Stillwater, Oklahoma. Nestled in the north-central region of the state, Stillwater is home to Oklahoma State University, 46,000 residents, and “red dirt” music—a distinct blend of folk, country, blues, and rock.
It’s also where James Driskel and his colleagues at the City of Stillwater’s Operations Department have notched an impressive 100 percent coaching effectiveness score.
According to Lytx® Client Success Manager Meagan Carrillo, it’s rare for an organization to get to 100 percent coaching effectiveness. Effective coaching means that each driver—after one coaching session—did not repeat the risky behavior within 60 days.
“Generally, the Lytx standard is 60 percent, and anything above that is a win,” Carrillo said. As of the publication of this article, no other Lytx government clients could claim a 100 percent effectiveness score in the same quarter that the City of Stillwater achieved it*, and the average for the sector is just above 80 percent, said Carrillo. “So getting to 100 percent is just extraordinary.”
Prior to our interview with Driskel, he wasn’t aware of the city’s coaching effectiveness score. “I knew we had good people,” he said. “I just didn’t know we were that good!”
Because Stillwater is a college town, a portion of its drivers is younger and tends to be less experienced, explained Driskel, the deputy operations director for the City of Stillwater. In addition, each new semester sees an influx of new students who aren’t familiar with the city’s roads.
“We notice a little bit more indecision in their driving styles,” he said. “So, following at a safe distance becomes pretty important. For example, I ask them to count out the distance to make sure they know what that safe distance looks like at different speeds. At stop signs, I ask drivers to make sure they feel the vehicle come to a complete stop. They should feel their head bob just a little.”
Frequently, following distance is shaped by habit, Driskel said. As a result, Driskel encourages his drivers to develop new habits to replace unsafe ones or to adapt to the challenges of driving in a college town.
“We focus on giving our drivers the tools they need to become safer drivers,” he said.
Driskel doesn’t expect drivers to remember to do the exercises every single time. “But if they make a point to practice a couple of times a week, then over a month or two, it becomes the safe habit” that displaces unsafe habits, he said.
“We just sit down and talk about it,” he said. “We talk through things drivers can do to practice, so that it becomes a natural, subconscious behavior.”
For organizations wanting to improve their coaching effectiveness, Driskel passed along the following five pieces of advice:
- Have a discussion with your employees and give them the tools to improve. Work with them to create new habits to displace unsafe ones.
- Be consistent with what you expect your employees to practice. Look for improvement and reward progress.
- Don’t be punitive when coaching. Otherwise, employees may be resentful, and therefore less motivated to improve.
- If two employees are in the same vehicle, the worker sitting in the passenger seat should be the driver’s second watchful pair of eyes. Both should refrain from distractions, whether it’s eating or using a cell phone.
- Finally, don’t get too preoccupied with the numbers. Instead, Driskel looks at metrics not as a goal unto itself, but as a way to understand how he can help his workers drive safely.
For more insight on what it takes to be an exceptional coach, read about Lytx 2018 Overall Coach of the Year Mark Barnett of TransWood Carriers, Inc. in our Driver and Coach of the Year awards press release.
* We did not include in our inquiry customers who didn't coach or who only coached infrequently.