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Conversation outline for coaching

In part 1 of Coaching a Bad Attitude, we talked about the importance of having a job manual for every single employee. Often, employees with bad attitudes are also people who hold onto knowledge and power. A manual ensures that no one’s daily actions are a mystery, which means that everyone can be let go if necessary.

In part 2, we discussed the importance of the coach having a positive attitude. Leaders are responsible for helping their employees create success. If we get adversarial with employees, we are ensuring a battle during the coaching.

In part 3, we talked about limiting the conversation to observable behaviors. Proving a bad attitude can be a difficult thing.

Now we are going to outline the best way to have a coaching session by using the Coaching Dialogue Outline. Let’s go through it step-by-step.

1. Before the Discussion. We’ve already talked about this step. We want to bring in a positive attitude and be clear on the outcome that we want from the coaching. Before the coaching session, we also want to consider what the challenges might be for the employee. Generally, the obstacles are ability, resources, or attitude.

For employees with bad attitudes, the root cause may be that they don’t have the resources that they need to perform their jobs. If so, that’s something that we can fix as leaders. Perhaps they don’t have the needed skills and abilities for the job. If it’s a training issue, that one is also on us to fix.

It’s important to consider possible reasons for the bad attitude, but it’s imperative that we don’t make assumptions.

Here’s a summary:

  • Consider ability, resources, and attitude
  • Intentionally create a safe space for the coaching by having a positive and helpful attitude
  • Clearly define the desired outcome

 2. Opening. In this step, we are face-to-face with the employee, and we are telling them what we want to talk about. It’s important to let your positive attitude and intention to be helpful shine out during this step. We can use the CAR format to help us stick to observable behaviors and business-based results.

This is a good time to remind the employee and ourselves that this is a dialogue, not a diatribe. As leaders, we need to do more asking than telling. We are problem-solving together with the employee, not telling the employee what he or she needs to be doing.

Here’s a summary:

  • Use the CAR (circumstance, action, result) format as a good objective opening
  • Emphasize that this is a dialogue

3. Discover and Share. This is THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP! When we skip this step, we miss the information that we need to solve the problems and overcome the challenges.

We, as leaders, want to make no assumptions and put all our preconceived notions aside. During this phase, we pretend like we know nothing and get really curious about what is going on. Remember, we hold onto our positive attitude while asking thoughtful questions.

If we enter the discussion with an open mind, we are listening carefully and willing to change our minds about a situation. It is possible that the employee has a brilliant suggestion. We must put our egos aside and listen without trying to “win.” We all win when our employees are successful.

Lastly, the conversation must include both facts and feelings. One way to bring feelings into the conversation is to name the feelings that we see and watch the employee’s response. For example, I could say, “Henrietta, it seems like this topic annoys you.” It could also be that she is fearful, upset, feeling disrespected, etc. If we don’t get it right, they will let us know, but we are getting to the heart of an issue when we discuss the feeling part of it.

Here is a summary:

  • Set all assumptions and preconceptions aside, and listen without judging
  • Be open to influence
  • Share information clearly without trying to “win”
  • Include a discussion of both facts and feelings

Here are some possible questions to ask:

  • What obstacles are you facing?
  • What feelings are present?
  • Have you faced a challenge like this before? If so, how did you deal with it?
  • Do you see any patterns here?
  • If circumstances were perfect, what would the situation look like? Is there a way to create those circumstances?

4. Develop solutions. This is the brainstorming step. We start by creating as many crazy solutions as possible. In the beginning, we sideline any reality checks. It’s fun! We are asking our employee to get creative.

Then we start discussing the possible solutions that we’ve created, with an eye to what is realistic. Someone’s job might be a lot easier if we hired an assistant for him or her. However, that might not be the best solution for the organization. It can be helpful to discuss the difference between what is best for the employee and what is best for the team, group, or organization. They aren’t always the same.

Maybe we can’t hire an assistant. Are there other ways to remove some responsibilities from the employee if he or she is truly overwhelmed? Sometimes great solutions begin with outrageous ideas.

We want our employees to solve their own problems if possible. They will be more likely to follow through on their own ideas than ours. Also, they know more about their own situation and abilities. As much as possible, we want them to create the solutions.

Here is a summary:

  • Brainstorm as many solutions as possible, without limitation
  • Then discuss options in terms of what is best for the team, group, or organization
  • Allow the employee to come up with as much as possible

5. Agree. We’ve done all the hard parts now. This step is just ensuring that we and the employee are on the same page. We want to capture what we’ve decided in writing. The summary below captures the things to consider in this step.

Here’s a summary:

  • End the discussion with an action plan and summary
  • Ensure that the employee creates and/or supports the action plan as much as possible
  • Connect the action plan with the initial desired outcome
  • Consider ability, resources, and attitude
  • Make sure the action plan is SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound)

6. Close. And we are done! The last thing to do is to check in with the employee to see how he or she is feeling. Ideally, they are positive and excited about moving forward with the plan. That might be a bit much to hope for when coaching employees with a bad attitude, but we can express confidence in their ability to move forward and follow the plan. It’s a good time to remind them of the positive business outcomes that everyone will receive as a result in the change in behavior.

Here’s the summary:

  • Check the relationship
  • Express confidence in agreement and employee
  • Summarize the benefits of the behavior change

The conversation is complete, but the coaching is far from done. Next time we will discuss the bigger picture – the Coaching Cycle.


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If you are interested in taking your career to the next level quickly, contact me for a sample coaching session at KSTorrey@tapferconsulting.com. #PositiveEffectLeadership #LeadershipRules #KathySays

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