Coaching Difficult Employees

October 31, 2019

Being the leader of skilled and productive employees who are motivated to perform well can be very easy. The true test of leadership is when you have to work with difficult employees who lack skill as well as the motivation to improve.

Here, I’d like to share some tips on how to coach and improve difficult employees.

Don’t Make Assumptions
Never assume that employees are deliberately trying to mess up their work. Your employees may lack the resources or skills to perform their duties.

Use the Session for Coaching Not Criticizing
The purpose of a coaching session is to identify and reduce gaps between performance and desired results. You should not use coaching as a disciplinary or punishing exercise.

Identify Gaps Before Coaching
Identifying the gaps in employee knowledge and skills is an ongoing process and an integral part of the manager’s duties. You should have a relatively good idea of what skills need to be taught and plan the training accordingly, instead of trying to determine the weaknesses during the session.

Don’t Avoid Conversations
In many cases, employee resentment is a by-product of neglect and mismanagement. Make sure that you regularly communicate with your subordinates to keep track of their requirements. If you have built rapport with your team, training sessions will go a lot more smoothly, even with difficult employees.

Create a Positive Tone for the Coaching Session
Some employees can be very guarded about the training sessions. They may feel that they are going through coaching because they lack skills, or their behavior needs adjustments. Make sure to start the training on a positive note. For instance, you can praise their previous accomplishments. This action will help them become more attentive to what you have to say.

Connect Training with the Employees Personal Development
Emphasize how the coaching will help the employee develop personally. Show them how the new skill they learn will enhance their productivity and growth at the firm and how it can translate to any future roles as well. People are more receptive to improving behavior when they know it will benefit them directly. Show them how the training helps them, rather than how it benefits the organization.

Describe Undesirable Attitudes in General and Neutral Terms
Never put the employee on the spot, especially during a group training session. If an employee lacks certain skills or is engaging in undesirable attitudes, mention it in a neutral tone. For example, discuss how coming to work late can affect workflow for everyone but do not accuse the employee directly of such behavior. The one exception to this is when you are having a formal disciplinary meeting.

Get an Agreement from the Employee about Improvement
Once you have laid out the appropriate behavior and skill gaps, get an agreement from the employee about making improvements. When an employee agrees to improve, it makes the work of coaching much manageable.

Conclude the Meeting and Define Next Steps
At the end of the meeting, summarize what was discussed and agreed. You should define the possible key actions and the timeframe for their completion. This information removes any ambiguity, and everyone becomes clear about the deliverables.

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