Over the years we’ve had a number of company presidents or senior leaders say to us, literally or figuratively, “Fix this person, please!” In some instances, it’s a skill issue at hand, but preponderance of the time there are attitudinal and/or behavioral habits that are causing problems in the company setting.

Developmental coaching can be a very effective method to help someone make breakthroughs in the very frame of reference from which they are operating. Especially in the case of phone-based coaching processes it can be very confidential and thus preserve the public image of the person being coached (PBC), if that’s a concern. There are some criteria that help to set up a successful coaching engagement:

  • If only one or two individuals are being identified for coaching, the selected persons might view the process with skepticism or defensiveness simply because they are being singled out. Key in successful coaching engagements is the buy-in from the prospective PBC, most typically obtained during a pre-engagement meeting with the coach.
  • Ground rules need to be established among the PBC, the coach, and the CEO sponsoring the coaching engagement. Topics such as confidentiality, the coach’s full advocacy for the PBC etc. need to be covered to prevent misunderstandings or unmet expectations later.
  • The coaching process is a catalyst for change, and the PBC drives the change. In some cases, the process of self-discovery results in the PBC becoming recommitted to and reinvigorated by their work. In other cases, it results in them realizing that the primary reason for their performance issues is that they don’t like their job, so they decide to leave the sponsoring company. Although a temporary inconvenience, every CEO we have spoken with has said, “If it’s not a match it’s better if they go.”
  • It is true that individuals are part of systems, and while they might have some improvements to make there might be larger issues at play. Group coaching might be a more effective methodology when you want to leverage the beneficial influence of top performers or enhance teamwork while improving individual performance.
  • Using a coaching style in your management methodology does not have the same impact as it does to engage a business/personal coach. When a manager uses a coaching style he or she still has a horse in the race. The potential conflict of interest between the company’s wellbeing and the wellbeing of the PBC dilutes its effectiveness.

A CEO told us a while back that they had someone they perceived to be “dead wood” in their company, but that they weren’t quite sure that they had provided a real opportunity for the individual to improve. Because of that reservation they were delaying in taking action to terminate the employee, which would likely result in lingering performance issues and ongoing headaches.

Perhaps a solution for the CEO would be to involve the individual in a coaching process with a resource like Summit HRD, a neutral outsider to the company. The employee might indeed have to be terminated later anyway, but if that should happen the CEO could do so with full confidence that the individual was provided an opportunity to improve. Best case scenario, however, and a distinct possibility, is that the person can become more competent, more confident, and more focused such that they can fulfill their potential within the company.