The Uncoachables

March 31st 2015

This title bears my harsh but truthful discovery. Like everything else, I learned it the hard way, by trying to coach people who should never have been sent to me. The good news is, it’s only happened a handful of times, and always when a boss has required that someone get coaching.

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In a particularly memorable example, a team member was sent to me because he had been promoted to a position above his ability; his behavior and lack of skills were hurting the team’s productivity, efficacy, and morale. The boss was hoping to salvage the situation by coaching him into being good at his job. Unfortunately, the team member just didn’t have the background to perform his duties effectively, and no amount of coaching would change that. He was a terrific person who should not have been given this particular job. 

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Sound like anyone you know? If it does, think twice before you spend any money, time or energy trying to fix your problem team member. Here are just a few reasons why someone may be uncoachable:

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  • He already has the promotion, so he thinks he’s done a wonderful job and sees no need for help.
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  • He blames everyone around him for whatever the issues are, and has never heard differently from his managers or leaders.
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  • Her mindset is utterly fixed. She sees the world as she sees it and has no reason to change. Her mantra: “This is just who I am, and they’re going to have to accept me.”
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The common thread in these examples is this: there are no consequences for not changing. The uncoachable team member has no reason to think or behave differently. Things can go on as they always have: she’s not going to be fired or demoted or even have to undergo a difficult conversation with her boss. 

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There are so many ways to avoid effective action. Maybe the team member just gets transferred to another department. Maybe she receives a general “everyone” email that obliquely addresses her particular behavior — which she will dismiss as irrelevant to her. Or maybe nothing happens at all, except this: managers, team members and leaders have to put up with her poor work or lousy behavior. And that creates consequences of its own. All of these examples are leadership issues that only corrective decisions can solve. Coaching won’t do it.

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In the long term, your firm suffers and so does your reputation as a leader when you don’t deal with the uncoachables. It’s far better to have the difficult conversations and make the hard calls as soon as you become aware of a problem. It is not easy, but it is necessary.

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leadership, coaching, communication, management

Comments



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04/01/2015 7:37am
As normal, your comments are spot on. It is difficult for those in charge to admit they have made a mistake and address that issue sooner rather than later but it really should be done to avoid the negative effects on the who have to work with the uncoachable person.