Over the years a number of company presidents or senior leaders have implored us, literally or figuratively to, “Fix this person, please!” through our coaching methodology. In some instances the underperformer has a skill deficit of some sort, but far more often it’s the individual’s attitudinal and/or behavioral habits that are causing problems in the company setting. In other words, they know what to do, but for some reason are doing something else instead.
Developmental coaching can be a very effective method to help someone make breakthroughs in the very frame of reference from which they are operating. When the coachee has a shiftt in paradigm – a change in perspective – they can make significant and sustainable changes in behavior and become in better alignment with the company’s needs. The coaching relationship helps to increase the individual’s confidence whileon the path toward helping improve his or her competence.
There are some “watch-outs,” however.
- The “Remedial Cloud”. – 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. Buy-in from the prospective coachee is key to a successful coaching engagement, and it is most typically obtained during a pre-engagement meeting with the coach. The good news is that coaching can meet the coachee wherever he or she is, and can generate noticeable benefits for the coachee personally as well as professionally. There is a “what’s in itt for me” that can become pretty evident very early in the process.
- Ground Rules – Ground rules need to be established among the coachee, the coach, and the CEO or senior manager sponsoring the coaching engagement. Topics such as confidentiality, the coach’s full advocacy for the coachee, etc. need to be discussed and agreed upon to prevent misunderstandings or unmet expectations later.
- Potential for Unexpected Outcome – The coaching process is a catalyst for change, and the coachee drives the change. In most instances the process of self-discovery results in the coachee becoming recommitted to and reinvigorated by their work because they see a path to success that fits them. In other instances, though,coachees discover that the primary reason for their underperformance is that they don’t like or aren’t suited for their job, and they decide to leave the sponsoring company. Although their departure creates a temporary inconvenience for the company, every CEO we’ve spoken with about this has said, “If it’s not a match it’s better if they go.”
- A Polished Part in a Clunky Machine – 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.
- In-house Coaching Has Limitations – Leaders implementing a “coaching style” in their roles do not have the same impact as a third-party business/personal coach. When a well-intentioned (and even the best skilled) manager uses a coaching style he or she still has a horse in the race. The manager’s potential conflict of interest between the company’s well-being and the well-being of the coachee dilutes effectiveness of the coaching manager.
Dealing with “dead wood” through coaching
A CEO told us that they had what they perceived to be “dead wood” in their company, but that they weren’t quite sure that they had provided a real process through which the individual would have the opportunity to improve. Because of that reservation about whether they had done enough to try to fix the situation, the company was delaying taking action to terminate the employee, which was resulting in lingering performance issues and ongoing headaches.
The CEO chose to involve the individual in a coaching process with us. We were able to help the individual notice the behaviors that were interfering with her performance, and to correct them. Through the process with us she also learned how to do self-coaching, so issues would not be likely to sneak up on her in the future.