Coaching

4 Ways to Coach the Uncoachable Employee

You can't change people, but you can get them to change their behavior.
4 Ways to Coach the Uncoachable Employee
Image credit: John Fedele | Getty Images
Guest Writer
International Consultant, Speaker, and Writer
5 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Every manager encounters uncoachable employees or team members, and, unfortunately, there are usually one or a few in every company. These uncoachable individuals will, without a doubt, drain the company’s resources, including time, energy and focus of the management team. Uncoachable employees often display behavior that directly opposes the company’s managerial strategy, (most of the time) are in the wrong job, lack desire for accountability, are inherently lazy, are extremely sensitive, do not take direction well, have no interest in upward mobility and repeatedly fail coaching efforts. 

Identifying the characteristics of uncoachable employees allows managers to determine how to approach these individuals without resorting to disciplinary actions. The reality is, just about anyone can fire someone; the true test of a good manager is whether you can help an employee who seems like a lost cause to succeed. One of a manager’s biggest challenges is to motivate these employees to be better productive members of the team. A different approach is required for these individuals the method used to manage those who continuously perform well and are self-driven.

Related: 7 Steps to Coaching Your Employees to Success

You have to truly care.

Managers must ensure employees that their leaders genuinely care for them. Employees are not coachable if they don’t trust their coaches/leaders. According to Harvard Business Review, the importance of trust and genuine care go a long way. They said: “Employees who are less trusted by their manager exert less effort, are less productive and are more likely to leave the organization. Employees who do feel trusted are higher performers and exert extra effort, going above and beyond role expectations.”

Essentially, employees want to know if their leaders are committed to their success, can be trusted to tell the truth and act with the employee’s best interest in mind. Leaders must willingly share their aspirations, shortcomings and fear of changes and uncertainties. If leaders trust them, employees will trust their leaders. This allows for more open discussions to help ensure that the issues and reasons causing employees to underperform are identified and addressed.

Related: You Team Will Succeed Only if They Trust Each Other

Manage behaviors, not people.

To effectively influence change, leaders must ensure that they focus on poor work behaviors instead of people, and target corrective behaviors. For instance, if an employee's dislike for another employee affects their performance, leaders can use it as a motivation driver; divert the employees’ focus on others by challenging that individual to focus on their own work to get better results and show that they’re the best employee by comparison. With the behaviors that cause them to perform and/or act negatively clearly identified, leaders can coach employees toward specific improvement.

Related: The Benefits of Having Friends in the Office (Infographic)

Help them plan to succeed.

Performance improvements require ample time, because behavior doesn’t change overnight. People fear and resist change, especially when sudden and abrupt. Establish a plan of action that is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Reasonable and Time-bound (SMART) with the employee’s cooperation. For instance, with employees who don’t believe they need help, leaders must ask how the employee wants to improve. This gives employees control over their careers; it also shows that their leaders trust their opinions, which lessens fear of and resistance to change. The SMART plan ensures the changes are gradual, and leaders and employees can easily track the progress of these changes and adjust the plan as needed. 

Find their most valuable skill set.

When plans don’t work, leaders managers must accept the idea that more aggressive actions are necessary and a change is needed. Options include redistributing the employee or promoting moving the individual to the right career path. However, leaders must emphasize that these actions are not because something is wrong with the employee. Instead, highlight the employee’s interests and goals. For example, to coach employees who are a bad fit for the job, managers must assess why they’re in the wrong job. Often, their the employee’s interests and goals don’t match their current job duties; they can be redistributed or assigned to jobs that match their interests, goals and skills. Unfortunately, if employees’ goals aren’t aligned with the company’s goals, the employees will never be happy; it’s best to coach them toward more compatible companies. 

Coaching employees doesn’t always mean keeping them. It’s not a failure on the managers’ part.  Often, the best option for everyone is for employees to seek other opportunities. The best coaches are those that have employees’ best interests at heart while keeping the company’s needs in mind.

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