January 21, 2018

How far do you go… to coach an employee?

Four business people in a discussionI often see business owners and managers struggling to secure reasonable performance from certain of their employees – one or two members of staff who, for some reason, aren’t effective. Cases where it’s not a skills issue, more of an attitude problem.

Usually, the leaders try to manage more performance out of the individual. In essence, they apply pressure, with perhaps some effort to coach them in a narrow, task-related way as well.

The thing is…

Often, more fundamental help is required. Somebody needs to get across to the individual what being a working person entails, what life is about, ultimately.

Sometimes, an individual has just never had that kind of education, from parents or other role models.

The question then is (and I’m often asked this)…

How far should a business owner or manager go into this kind of territory?

How much of a leader of the whole person should they be?

The answer is… as far as it takes to stimulate the change in performance they need. Or the individual realises they are in the wrong place.

If the time and effort involved in doing that is beyond what’s justifiable then it’s time to recognise the appointment isn’t working out and deal with that.

Because it’s just too damaging to leave it alone.

Our choice is…

Do whatever it takes to get to the point where the individual is productive, perhaps getting an older, wiser head to talk to them about life, if that’s what’s needed.


Remove them from the team.

Holding back, doing less than it takes, isn’t an option.

Acting hard—a good idea?

Woman making an emphatic pointAn organisation wonders if it has a particular problem with stress—more than is typical…

I ask whether the employees believe management cares about them, really wondering to what degree that is true. The response “Oh no, we wouldn’t want that” was so striking to me that I still wonder if my contact was half-joking. But even if he was joking, he was, as I say, only half-joking.

The same organisation has a culture where acting hard and tough seems to be seen as a good thing to do, or expected.

Now of course hard decisions need to be made. Let’s take that as read—and, funnily enough, real toughness might well work as a culture—but pretending to be hard when you’re not?

There’s a cause of stress for employees right there.

To pretend not to care when you do… I don’t see much upside in that for a manager unless it really is a rewarded behaviour. And then the culture is off.

I believe it’s quite possible (and beneficial) to be tough or demanding and care at the same time, and to let people see that.

But a fake hardness? A drag on the organisation, I reckon. Care deliberately withheld sounds pretty stressful to me.

What do you think?

Change for leaders – Does it start out there or in here?

Jar in front of a mirrorMessing about with key phrases on Google such as “change for leaders”, it’s very striking that most of what comes up is about doing change to other people—organizations, employees and so forth, usually by or on behalf of various corporate bodies or consultancies.

It’s all about making change happen out there—the assumption being that there is no need for change within the leaders themselves. They are the leaders after all.

Now I’m just looking at the listed search results and maybe when you click through it’s obvious that the various organizations and individuals realize that in order for us to lead change in other people, we must first change ourselves.

Or maybe not.

But that’s the thing. Change done to other people doesn’t stick, if it works at all in the first place.

Change begins “in here,” and then it happens “out there.”

Try it and see.