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Meiss Education Institute

The Coach as Challenger: Confronting Habitually Poor Performance
By Rich Meiss

Coaching For Results Series: Vl

When an employee has had several chances to correct their poor performance or inappropriate behavior and they have not done so, the coach needs to confront the behavior immediately. This employee is headed down a dead-end road, and it would be unfair to the organization and the other employees to allow him/her to continue. In many ways, it is also unfair to the employee to allow him/her to continue on this unproductive path. This process of confronting continued poor performance puts the coach in the role of challenger.

The first step for a coach about to embark on this role is to become intimately familiar with the organization’s Human Resource (HR) policies. Most organizations today have a standard set of practices for how to discipline and eventually release an employee. The process usually includes a verbal warning (or two) to the employee, which is documented in the HR files. If the unacceptable behavior continues, there is usually a written warning given, again documented and filed. And then after a certain amount of time, the employee may be legally terminated.

To start this process, the coach should use the old “contracting for consequences” approach. This approach begins with the statement: 

“If this __________(offending behavior) continues, then ____________(this will happen)”. 

For example, “Joe, if you show up late for work one more time, then I will be giving you a verbal warning.” Or, “Patricia, if you are overheard using the __ word with a customer again, I will be giving you a written warning.” Or, “Pedro, if you are caught padding your expense account again, you will be released.” These statements are effective because they once again mention the offending behavior and they let the employee know specifically what the consequences will be if the behavior happens one more time.

So after attempting to re-direct the employee several times with no apparent success (because the behavior has continued), the challenger process goes like this:


1) Ask to meet privately with the employee. 
2) Remind the employee what good looks like and what the goal is.
3) State the “If … then” phrase, “If ___________ (this behavior) continues, then ___________ (this will be the consequence)”.
4) Ask the employee to repeat what he/she heard for clarification.
5) Remind them that the outcome will be up to them.

Good coaches keep the outcomes of employee behavior directly on the employee, and therefore nurture personal responsibility. It’s all a part of “growing people while getting results!”

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