Solution Saturday: To Coach or Kick Butt
What do you do when the person you’re coaching persists in poor performance or negative behaviors?
Energy deflates when you have the same conversation over and over.
The belief that coaching is handholding offends real coaches.
It’s not compassionate to create dependency.
It’s disrespectful to enable helplessness.
It’s ineffective to tolerate persistent failure.
7 ways to coach and kick butt:
Technically, coachees kick their own butts.
#1. Sincere people get stuck. We’ve all circled the black hole, from time to time.
Compassion enables high standards.
#2. Don’t have the same conversation – in the same way – for the third time. The same conversation for the third time insults competence.
Talking about the same thing – in the same way – validates weakness and affirms failure.
#3. Point out the obvious. Look them in the eye and say, “This isn’t working. This is the third time we’re talking about this issue, but you aren’t getting where you want to go.
What do you think?
#4. Choose silence after stating the obvious. Silence is communication.
5 Powers of awkward silence:
- Silence says this matters. Blabbing suggests frivolity. Silence indicates that this topic is worthy of careful consideration.
- Silence says we aren’t moving to the next item.
- Silence is space to reflect, rethink, and face reality.
- Silence shifts responsibility. As long as you’re speaking, they don’t have to. Don’t rescue someone who knows how to swim.
- Silence waits for their solutions. You aren’t the solution fairy.
#5. Display authenticity, compassion, and candor.
- Avoid saying the “correct” things.
- Don’t judge.
- Own your disappointments, frustrations, and aspirations.
In awkward moments, let people know where you’re at. Don’t keep them guessing.
#6. Explore the challenge. “What’s the real challenge for you?” Ask this question three or four times, in different ways.
- And what else?
- Tell me more.
- I hear you saying …. So, what else might be the real challenge for you?
- What’s coming to mind? (This question lets people know their response doesn’t have to be well thought out.)
Michael Bungay Stanier correctly observes that the words “for you,” change everything.
#7. Choose a challenge and chart a path.
- Which of the challenges seems most important?
- What would you like to do about that?
- What else would you like to do about that? (Create options before making choices.)
- What makes you think things will be different this time? (The answer concerns behaviors.)
- What new behaviors are necessary? When someone is stuck, working harder in the same way makes things worse.
- What do you want me to ask you next time?
What might coaching leaders do when the people they coach are stuck?
Hello Dan! Great and timely article. After 3 days of strategy meetings, some hard decisions have been made regarding the performance of some of my team members. Unfortunately, this can was kicked down the road for years before I arrived. But now I am responsible for the leadership of the team, and these changes are needed. The coaching has not been effective, and I agree that coaching on the same topic over and over and over, is ineffective, and a waste of the team member’s and my own time. These changes are needed not only for the team, but also for the team member.
Thanks Jay. You describe something that happens inside organizations. I wonder if part of the problem is the belief that talk, rather than behavior, solves nagging problems?
You have my best in this “exciting” challenge. Congratulations for facing the reality that another trip around the same tree will leave everyone still standing around the same tree.
Great blog once again. Thank you for taking the time on a Saturday to provide some advice to those who are seeking it.
Sometimes, it’s easier to keep talking (my downfall) than to let them speak up for themselves. Asking them lots of questions pertaining to the solution they are coming up with, such as the questions you suggest, are a great way to help them unlock the real solution. Here are 2 questions I use based on a technique I was trained on:
1. (At the end when they are done with coming up with possible solutions) Would you like any advice from me?
2. (At the end of the conversation) What is the very next step you’ll take?
Thanks Joe. It’s a pleasure to serve.
I particularly like question #2. Let’s nail down what you are going to do this afternoon. 🙂
You aren’t alone. I’ve been learning and relearning to talk less for years.
You touch on such a key point today. So often, those we coach would rather hear a suggestion, an answer to “what should I do,” rather than determine what they already know is the best course of action. It is SO TEMPTING to speak words of “this is how I would handle it” rather than helping someone draw out from themselves what they should do. But you are right, to simply give answers creates dependence. As coaches, we do want to affirm and encourage, but we must be so careful not to enable.
As always, thanks for your words of wisdom!
Thanks Jim. The temptation to give answers, in my case, is about seeming capable. I get to feel competent and smart. Coaches create environments where others feel competent and smart. 🙂
I’ve also noticed that giving an answer is one form of taking ownership. If you give me the answer, you become more responsible for the outcome.
And then remind them of the hierarchy of authority. Coach- Smotz The Coach as people seem to all want to called, is the Manager. A real Manager is a Leader
The truism of “the buck stops here” is true for that Manager/Leader aka the Coach is the ultimate one accountable for that “buck”
So from an authority, not authoritarian standpoint, remind, reinforce that hierarchy.Be clear and concise in the objectives and the plan to get there. Also identify in the matrix their direct contribution to that plan and where failure occurs if they don’t contribute
Convey to them that if it doesn’t happen, changes will/must be made and they’ll be part of that change. Directness has success
In seeing these posts there’s too much kumbiya, hand holding today.that’s different than understanding and compassion
Business is tough
Business is brutal
Business by stakeholder accountability doesn’t have much kumbiya in its DNA towards those who don’t appreciate via performance the Kumbiya given them
Business is driven by dollars which have no emotional attachment other than when that dollar is less.Then the Emotion of Accountability comes into play. That Manager, aka the Coach doesn’t want to be the sacrifice for the ineptness of others under their direction.
Be a boss,
Be a Leader not just a Manager,
Real Leaders have thread skills
But insist on compliance to corporate plans, or deviations will cause the inept to exit
The pragmatic view of life
Thanks Don. I appreciate you bringing the challenges of being an internal coach to the conversation. Of course, both internal and external coaches must deliver results. However, I find that internal coaches face some unique challenges.
One thing to consider is you don’t coach on the goal. Goals are often set by someone else. You coach on methods of achieving goals. What works best for coachees.
Under #6 “Explore the Challenge”, I’d wait until the exploratory questions were discussed and – if the root cause has not been exposed – I’d spring the “Why” question: “Why are you finding this to be such a challenge?”
Thanks Bud. Exploring root causes has it’s place. I’m not a fan of the “why” question. Although, I think we agree on reasons for this type of exploration. I prefer, “What makes this such a challenge for you?”
Thanks so much for bringing an important aspect of the conversation to light.
Thanks Dan. This was so timely it’s spooky. And the comments were very helpful too.
Hi Dan. As I’ve said to you before your posts always get me thinking. I’m grateful.
Regarding your #2, Having the Same Conversation, is a great management/ coaching KPI. Most KPIs tend to be things that are easily measured and generally lagging indicators of success. Having the same conversation or addressing the same issue with either 1 or many of your team is a great pointer to your coaching/ management/ leadership effectiveness.
Regarding your #6 and #7, this reminds me of 3 questions Anthony Tjan wrote in a HBR article.
After working through #1 to #5 you may be able to get a list of the team member’s top 3 – 5 priorities for the next 6(?) weeks. Then ask:
1. Which of these priorities interests you the most?
2. Which of these are you most likely to be successful with?
3. Which of these priorities do you think will have the greatest impact for your slice of the business/ our team?
The real power and magic occurs when all 3 questions have the same answer.
When they don’t you need to think about the alignment between what the team member is most (personally) passionate about, and capable of (professionally) successfully achieving, with what has the most impact for the business.
Where most coaches run into problems is ignoring the human issues and deal only with the professional and company issues.
Thanks again. Mark
My Dad’s advice many years ago: “You have two ears and one mouth. Majority rules!”