How to Coach a Difficult Employee Using T-H-I-N-K

Why is coaching a difficult employee so hard? Is it because we have to prepare more and they still may react poorly; or it may in fact make things worse. The answer to each of these answers is YES.

This is where we earn our keep. Just like a championship team that needs to come from behind in order to win, all of our training is put to the test when we are handling a difficult employee.

Difficult employees take many forms and we could fill a book with situations that are challenging. Lets narrow this discussion to a specific situation – a good employee, whom you know is important to your team and your results, and who has some annoying or bad behaviors that are disrupting their growth and results. My grandpa might have described this person as “a little rough around the edges.” The bottom line is our coaching matters since performance has been demonstrated and we believe in this person’s growth potential. Alternatively, if you are coaching someone whom you don’t believe in, then I need to be coaching you. That’s an important issue and a whole different blog! In order to make the complex a little simpler, let’s T-H-I-N-K!

T – THINK, before you speak. Practice a role-play in the mirror or try recording a video of yourself to make sure you take emotion out of both your voice and facial expressions. The best coaching I ever received was delivered from a place I knew my coach had experience and confidence and was delivered calmly and without becoming emotional or overly enthusiastic. My coach was stating facts and observed behaviors in a clear, calm manner and that made the information more valuable and easier to process. The goal is to present feedback that is received as fair and thoughtful.

H – HELPFUL, be helpful to them. I’ve seen poor coaches trying to make their employee more like themselves. Is our feedback and observation valid? Do we believe our feedback is relevant to their personal and professional success? Our feedback should be centered on that person and not be about us, the coach. If you want to be a better salesperson, you need to be a better person. If you want to be a better coach or mentor, you need to be a better big brother or big sister.

I – INTUITIVE, approach things from an intuitive perspective. Do we use logic and have evidence? As we state facts, are they actually facts or are they innuendo and opinion? The more our observations stem from our own of e-mails, phone calls and behaviors, the more valid our discussion. We’re simply trying to make common sense into common practice. This applies to our coaching as well as our employee’s behavior.

N – NECESSARY, is this discussion necessary, or not? I’ve seen a lot of time wasted in coaching on issues that were just trivial. An example of this would be a leader wanting to be right, too often, over the opportunity to allow their employee some measure of autonomy or mastery over the details in doing their job. When you have lions at your door, don’t waste time chasing chipmunks. Ask yourself if you are in the weeds or if this coaching is really beneficial or critical. If it’s not necessary, then go handle some work that’s more fun.

K – KIND. Be kind, and less focused on being right. Our need to be right turns our tone and questions into challenges, instead of us learning or being received as curious. We go from dialogue to monologue and there is little wonder from the employee as to what is happening. They decide they are being punished. We care less about someone’s content in how they are coaching us and we care more about their intent. We ask ourselves, “Are they trying to help or hurt me?” We can all spot early in any conversation, the tone and body language of kindness as compared to rightness. As Wayne Dwyer says, “In the Battle to be Right or Kind, choose Kind; its closer to your values and everyone’s around you.”

Great Day
Great Coaching
Great Fun


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