1. Starting The Conversation
Many of us would rather fake an injury (errant staple, anyone?) than be stuck in an office with the department curmudgeon. Sometimes it even feels easier to fire someone who has a bad attitude than to start a conversation with them.
If you’re struggling to get the conversation started with an employee who has a bad attitude, remember that you’re making an investment in an employee whose attitude is interfering with their ability to be successful. It’s unlikely they will change on their own, but with your help, they could become one of your most valued employees.
Once you’ve decided to engage, remember to open your first meeting with questions designed to build the persons awareness of their own attitude. Asking them how a close friend would rate their attitude at work on a five-point scale can be a good start. Remember, as a coach your job isn’t to accuse someone, but to facilitate their growth.
2. Keeping Coaching Positive
Remember that old adage misery loves company? People with bad attitudes often want to dwell on the negative, preferring to stand back and admire the problem rather than roll up their sleeves and dig in. They also have years of practice at looking past the positive to find things which seem to confirm their negative attitude.
Combat this by formulating questions using “What” + “A Success Imperative”. For example, try asking ‘What can you do to work with Taylor in a positive way?’ Or ‘What can you do to maintain a positive outlook when working with a challenging client?’. Questions like these keep the conversation positive and results-oriented.
You can also try asking them to find and share positive stories in the news with coworkers or even to watch and journal about people who have extraordinarily upbeat attitudes (like Starbucks baristas). These techniques keep your conversations focused on the good.
3. Not Letting Go
As a manager you want your employees to be successful. But sometimes that desire can manifest itself in the form of directing or ordering because those things feel clear, concise, and concrete. The problem is that people who have negative attitudes will often treat your well-intended directions as an opportunity to feel dis-empowered and resentful.
Instead of directing, try asking. Present an employee with options of activities they can use to change their attitude. Or better yet, together, brainstorm a list of things they could try. Then talk about what they think could work and why. This opens the dialogue and creates ownership over their growth while investing them in the process.
4. Getting Past Conversations
One common mistake is confusing conversation for results. Change is about replacing the behaviors that stop someone from being successful with behaviors that help them. Don’t get me wrong, conversation is important, but it’s most useful when used to reflect on actions.
To keep your coaching conversations grounded in action, remember to end each coaching session with a learning project, something your employee will do by the next time you meet. These can range from simple acts of kindness or watching a video to ongoing projects like reading an excerpt from book and having them journal about it.
Using learning projects as the basis for conversation keeps your talks concrete and action-oriented. It also keeps you from losing precious minutes making small talk and them from getting off topic or avoiding the subject by generalizing their experience.
5. Keeping The Ball Rolling
One huge mistake many manager wait is scheduling half-hour or hour-long coaching sessions once a month. Here’s the problem: guess what happens when something comes up last minute and one of you has to reschedule? The coaching sessions gets pushed out to next week or gets skipped altogether. What happens then? You spend the whole time rehashing and catching up instead of making progress.
Try managing your coaching by scheduling it in fifteen minutes chunks each week. Keeping meetings regular and short reduces the likelihood that the employee will feel overwhelmed by your coaching. And it means that when you do have to miss a session or reschedule it you are better able to pick up where you left off.
Another key: keeping the ball rolling by sticking with a learning project until it really pays dividends. Don’t jump to another project as soon as you see some success. That consistency keeps the person being coached from feeling overwhelmed and it allows both of you to add depth and detail to your conversations. Plus, it allows you to build on success, which is a great incentive.
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