When Coaching Won't Work: Character Issues

Photo courtesy of kittijaroon, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo courtesy of kittijaroon, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I believe strongly in leadership development. I believe most people have the capacity to lead. I believe leaders can be found across the spectrum of personality types and thinking styles. In fact, I believe in these things so strongly, I routinely provide one-on-one coaching to men and women who want to grow their leadership.

Most of the time, I have the pleasure of working with people who have been identified as potential leaders in an organization or with senior executives who need a little shaping or polish in one or two areas.

Occasionally, a client will ask us to work with an individual who has some significant rough edges. Those coaching assignments are often complex, and whether an organization will see progress from that person really depends on the answer to one simple question - is the root of their issue about behavior or character?

Leaders are human, so they will demonstrate poor judgment, make bad decisions, and even behave inappropriately on occasion. While their immediate influence will suffer because of those situations, their leadership can be redeemed. Coaching is often effective for those moments because it provides guidance about how to regain their influence.

But, sometimes, the poor judgment, bad decisions, and inappropriate behavior go much deeper. They are symptomatic of a larger issue - a character issue, if you will. Repeated poor judgment, bad decisions, and inappropriate behavior typically reveal that character issue, and that's when coaching won't work.

I can coach behavior, but I can't coach character.

And if you are trying to rescue an employee with a character problem, my guess is you are finding that statement to be true. If you are in that situation, I strongly encourage you to cut your losses and move on. Your organization can deal with some behavioral issues (all organizations have them), but it can't handle character issues and still thrive (or even survive).

Food for thought,
Becky