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.
So now the job manual is done, and we have the proper attitude. The next thing to consider when planning to coach an employee with a bad attitude is, “What is the outcome that I am looking for?”
Most people immediately answer, “I want him or her to have a good attitude!” However, discussing the attitude itself is usually counterproductive. If you sit down to coach me and say, “You need to change your attitude,” my response would be, “What attitude? I don’t have an attitude. You have an attitude!” And we are off and running in a conversation that runs in circles.
We want to discuss the specific behaviors that lead us to believe that the person has a bad attitude. Is there a lot of eye-rolling and negative body language going on? Discuss that! Are there foot-dragging and bad-mouthing behaviors? Discuss the specific behavior that you want to change. It’s the behaviors associated with a bad attitude that we can prove and discuss.
Observable behaviors are facts that a person cannot deny. We want to give specific instances of when a person behaved in a way that was detrimental to productivity, efficiency, or morale. There is a formula that we can use to help us stay on track. It’s called a CAR, which stands for Circumstance, Action, and Result.
We start with Circumstance by describing what was going on when the person displayed the specific behavior that we want to see changed. For example, let’s say that we have an employee named Henrietta who rolls her eyes at what other people say during meetings. We could start with “I want to discuss your reaction to Joan’s comments during our staff meeting last week.” We’ve told the person exactly when and where the behavior happened.
Next, we want to name the specific Action that Henrietta did. We might say, “When Joan suggested that we change the way we process paperwork, you rolled your eyes.” By the way, eye-rolling is totally unacceptable behavior. Next, we are going to explain why.
We explain the detrimental results that come from eye-rolling. It could go like this: “When you roll your eyes, it looks to all of us like you are disapproving of what has been said, which makes people hesitant to speak up. It’s important for the team’s success that everyone feels free to share ideas and even disagree.” We could go on to mention Google’s Project Aristotle and how essential psychological safety is to the creation of a successful team. We are great leaders, so we are sure to have mentioned this before.
We might also say that the eye-rolling doesn’t let us know why Henrietta disagrees. We want to remind her that we value her perspective and want to hear it. We want to hear what Henrietta thinks, but we want her to say it in a respectful way. Now would be a good time to remind Henrietta of our Designed Alliance, which states that we speak to each other respectfully even when we disagree. We are fantastic leaders, so we are sure to have created a Designed Alliance with our team.
Eye-rolling is probably only one of the ways that Henrietta flies her bad attitude flag, but it’s best to deal with one behavior at a time. Pick the behavior that is most damaging to the morale and productivity of the team, and start there.
The CAR format is an excellent way to begin a coaching session, but it’s just the opening. We will talk about the rest of the process next time.
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