An SOS From a Coach – What Advice Do You Have?


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I have the honor and privilege to work with many managers and supervisors in developing and enhancing their management and leadership skills.  I often get emails from clients asking for input, feedback, a life line and help.  Over the last month or so I have seen a familiar and reoccurring theme in the questions I am receiving from managers.  I thought I would share one of the emails I received along with my response.

If you could provide advice to this struggling coach what would it be?  What’s on-target in my response?  What’s off target in my response?

Dear Kelly,

I hate to say I’m having issues but can’t think of another word to use. It’s in regards to my assistant manager. Somehow we’ve had a disconnect in the past month or so. I don’t feel like we are working as a team. I feel she avoids me most of the time.  She is a very well organized and detail oriented person. However, you can tell if something throws her off her schedule, she gets stressed and shuts down. I have talked with her in the past but she says everything is fine. I can’t get anything out of her. In addition, my daily responsibilities are getting behind because I feel like I shouldn’t give her additional things because it might affect her stress level even more and I question if she will even do it.

Struggling to Coach

My response to the Struggling Coach…

Dear Struggling to Coach,

I applaud the fact that you have recognized there is an issue here with your assistant manager.  It’s easy to look the other way.  Based on what you have told me I would start by asking yourself the following questions.  And be honest in your answers.

  • Does she know what is expected in her position? (If you can’t answer yes to this you have to start here before doing anything else)
  • Has she ever demonstrated the ability to work as a team, handle stress effectively and do the tasks required for the job successfully?
  • When does she perform as expected?
  • How often does she perform as expected?
  • When she becomes stressed, what behaviors is she displaying? (i.e. withdraws, is quiet, tells everyone her problems, doesn’t follow through)
  • What behaviors is she demonstrating that leads you to believe you are not working as a team?
  • What are you doing to contribute to the situation?

The key is to define behaviors you are seeing or not seeing that leads to the performance in question.  You want to avoid vague feedback such as you are not a team player.  What is she doing that leads you to believe she is not a team player?  When you focus on the behaviors expected the conversation is more open, honest and valuable.  It also helps to break down defensiveness because you are not attacking or calling her out for who she is but rather what she is doing.

The other key is determine if this is an issue of willingness (her desire or attitude and choice in doing what is expected) or if it is an issue of ability (does she know what to do and how to do it.)  Once you can determine the cause of the problem, unwilling but able, willing but unable then you can begin to address to the performance issue.  It sounds to me like it might be an issue of unwilling but able.  If that is the case I would recommend the following:

  • Set weekly or even daily goals for what is to be accomplished (completing reports, coaching, goal setting with employees, etc.)
  • Provide positive reinforcement for behaviors that are on target and have improved (be very specific in your feedback and be sure to include the impact of her behavior)
  • Use questions and reflection to help talk through specific situations that you would have liked to have handled in a different manner
  • Confront the issue head on by reiterating the expectations, highlighting the behaviors and pressing for change.

Give her some time to change her behavior and monitor the situation.  When you see a change in behavior be sure to recognize it and talk about it.  If you don’t see a change in behavior, it might be time to evaluate if she is in the right position.

Best wishes,

We would love to hear your input!  What advice would give this coach?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Jen Kuhn
Jennifer Kuhn is a talented, energetic and enthusiastic consultant, trainer and speaker. She has provided thousands of employees, coaches and executives with guidance while they work to enhance their professional skill development. Jen's approach has been hailed by participants who were initially skeptical or resistant. Her unique and non-threatening style wins over the most jaded employee that allows them to learn and grow within their organization.


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