The Coaching Conversation

14 Sep
by Bridget DiCello

Coaching is having a series of conversations with an individual in order to help them access their hidden potential to achieve greater levels of success.

-          Bridget M. DiCello

It is essential that you have both “Conversations on the Go” as well as “Undivided Attention Meetings.”  When you see acceptable or unacceptable behaviors, sometimes you need to address them immediately for greatest impact.  Other times you need to get both the employee and yourself focused on their improvement in a planned meeting where you have each other’s undivided attention.  In which meeting you bring up an issue depends on the urgency of the needed change in behavior.  If you wait as an unacceptable behavior continues, your frustration increases as does the employee’s resistance to change – which makes the conversation more difficult when it does occur.

Conversations on the Go:

1.  You bring up the unacceptable behavior and get them talking.
“I’m concerned about… because…  What Happened?”

2.  Then you talk.  Explain current unacceptable behaviors describing them specifically.  “Your bad attitude” and “your lack of initiative” are not specific behaviors.

3.  Get commitment to precise, doable action from the employee.

4.  Determine a follow up date – it may be your monthly meeting with them.

Undivided Attention Meetings – Monthly meeting where each of your direct reports prepares for and attends a meeting with you.

This is not about how you can help them or what they think you or the company could do differently.  This is about them reporting on their progress and challenges.

According to set agenda both you and they have prior to the meeting:

1.   They report their successes first – according to goals you have set

2.  They report on set metrics, projects, goals, status

3.  They identify the areas where they have fallen short and what they will do differently.

4.  You compliment them on successes you’ve seen

5.  You comment on their performance that can be improved. (using specific examples of unacceptable and acceptable behaviors.)

6.  Get commitment to precise, do-able and measurable action.  Help them come up with action items and strategies.  This is not easy and may take time.  Dig in and really find a do-able action.  Use Clarifying Questions like, “Can you give me an example?” and “Can you be more specific?” and “What have you tried in the past?”  Watch for Smokescreens and Tangents. 

7.  Determine a follow-up date and follow-up.

The only way you can help your team to really access their potential and therefore move your team to a higher level of performance is if you coach them.  Even the best employees need your coaching.  Michael Jordan had a coach who pushed him to excel!


“I Know You Can Do It!”

18 Aug
by Bridget DiCello

“I know you can do it!”  Why are these such powerful words?  When voiced by a someone about a colleague or team member, they express confidence in that person.  Despite the independent, confident, maybe egotistical approach of people who are difficult to work with, I believe there is a great lack of self-confidence under the surface, being hidden by confident speech.  When someone who they respect, whether because of a great relationship or by only an official relationship, says they believe they can do something, it energizes that person.

You are telling them that you believe in them and that they should believe in themselves.  Too mushy for you?  Well, it’s powerful and used well, can bring about significant changes in performance and levels of cooperation.

Do you tell team members this who you find difficult to interact with?  Can you get yourself to believe it for those who have less than stellar performance?

Why would you say this if you don’t believe it 100%?  There is power in what we say about ourselves and what others say about us.  By saying, “I know you can do it,” you are instilling a determination in that person.

You will find the most success when you follow up by holding them accountable to what they have agreed to.

What if they fail?  Doesn’t that mean you were wrong?  No!  It just depends on what timeframe you are talking about.  If you say they can accomplish something and they get frustrated because they didn’t get it done in a week.  Push harder.  Insist you know they can do it and ask them what the next step they are going to do is.  Everything is accomplished with a series of small steps.

Sometimes team members may at first look to prove you wrong in order to stay in their comfortable current level of performance.  Insist you believe they can do what needs to be done, that they have the ability to learn and to accomplish more than they have.

Try it.  Say, “I know you can do it!” with conviction to each person important to your success once a week and see what happens!

Laziness is often a Misnomer

22 Jul
by Bridget DiCello

Managers use laziness as a reason why employees don’t do a good job or complete tasks they are assigned.  Maybe you have uttered the accusation, “(S)he’s just lazy!”  Some believe that people in general are lazy

I couldn’t disagree more! People are passionate, driven and intelligent beings!  We even see those with great physical and mental limitations accomplish great things. (Like the world-renown pianist who has only four fingers total!)


That drive to contribute, accomplish and succeed is in every person – it may just be buried deeply behind a lifetime of bad experiences, of hearing words that beat up the self-confidence and a barrage of media messages that promulgate mediocrity.

Any employee who works for you has worked other places before, has interacted with friends and family, and has received messages about what they can accomplish and what is acceptable and expected – for years.

Laziness is defined as averse or disinclined to work, activity, or exertion and slow-moving and sluggish.  Why would someone act this way?

1. Failing to do the work in a previous job did not bring any negative results and they continued to get a paycheck.  They watched others work hard and get paid the same thing or be given more work to do.

2.  They’ve worked hard in the past to reach a particular goal and failed, received harsh criticism for doing so, and were not given any coaching or a second chance.

3.  They have grown up in a generation who believes they are entitled to a great life and it’s easy to get there – just watch TV and pay attention to the messages, and it’s no surprise.

4.  They have never found their passion, gotten really excited about the mission or goals of a company and have never had a leader that connected with them enough to ignite this excitement.

5.  No one has ever “forced” them to be successful, by pushing them out of their comfort zone and providing a safety net to assist in their success.

6.  They have never worked with a boss who took the time to get to know them, what is important to them and where they are coming from – in order to help them feel part of the team and work to their strengths.

I’m sure there are many reasons why someone would appear “Lazy,” and these are just a few.  Below are suggestions of how you, as the manager, might address an employee who acts lazy for these reasons.


1.  No negative results in the past. Ensure you are clearly setting expectations, explaining consequences and holding them accountable.  Take the time to provide the routine accountability, insist they report on their successes and failures and require they give you an idea of what they can do differently to continue to improve.

2.  Past failures. Celebrate success and hard work.  Even little bits of success and small steps in the right direction should be acknowledged by you – as should little failures and small steps in the wrong direction – receive coaching and redirection.

3.  Entitlement. Realize that your employees may have a different mindset, and may not have grown up in a strong environment to teach them otherwise.  Do you as the manager have to act like a parent?  In the role of imparting values, yes, sometimes you do.

4.  Lack of Passion. Share the mission and goals, get them talking about them (notice I did not say that you should talk about them), require they come up with good ideas and show them through leading by example what passion looks like (this means all your managers need to do so, not just you if you are the top dog).

5.  Force Success. No matter how small, require they do tasks and activities outside their comfort zone, check in with them before they have a chance to fail to redirect them if necessary, and help them to taste success!  Your involvement will become less as time goes on.

6.  Bad boss. The best bosses expect great things, demand excellence, impart passion and excitement and most importantly, connect with their people.  They realize that the best processes and systems in the world will have limitations if they cannot engage their people.  Engaging them means taking the time to build a relationship, but a relationship is a two way street – they also insist the employee does their part!

Have you had an experience where you thought an employee was lazy, but were able to uncover a great employee using techniques like those listed above?


Top 3 Myths of Motivating Others – Do you talk too much?

12 Jul
by Bridget DiCello

People motivate themselves.  However, there are things that leaders can do to facilitate the process.  But first, let’s examine a few common myths.

People get motivated by an energetic, enthusiast leader. Some people do, and some just find that level of energy annoying or downright exhausting.  (If you do, you’re probably an introvert who would find great information in reading The Introvert Advantage, a great book recommended by a friend years ago.)  This energetic leader may get others excited about what they are doing, but rarely will this excitement alone result in the person displaying lasting motivation.  And, it can be very difficult for a leader to maintain that enthusiasm level, when they are expected to be the fuel for everyone’s fire all the time.

People get motivated by fear of repercussions. I read once that people would much rather experience all kinds of terrible repercussions than go through the painful process of changing their behaviors.  And over and over I see that is true.  If it’s easy to change their behaviors just enough to not get fired, people may do that, but never will they be motivated by their fear to do any more than the minimum.

People get motivated by hearing how important it is to get things done. It’s true that people are motivated when they are excited about the expected results, ambitious goals and the vision and mission of the organization.  However, the motivation does not necessarily appear because they heard about the expected results or vision/mission.  Very few people will become motivated for longer than a brief time when they hear something.

Most people will agree that those who are motivated do things. defines motivating others as “to stimulate toward action.”  There is a long distance between hearing something and doing it.

Therefore, in order to get others motivated, you need to find a way to get them TO TALK and TO DO.  And ensure they experience success, however small, as a result.

To Talk and To Do:

1.  Stop Talking. If you want to get a message across, speak some and then stop.  Ask questions and have a conversation which includes getting the other person talking.  Talking about the importance of the project/task, the possible methods for getting it done, the obstacles they see, the fears they have and the first steps they will take.

2.  Make First Steps Happen. In order to get started, some people need to be “forced” to take the first step, possibly because of fear of the unknown or perfectionist tendencies which lead to procrastination.  Laziness is often a misnomer.  As their manager, you might have to determine the first step with them, decide on a deadline and hold them to it.  When they experience success, their motivation level will increase.

What successes have you experienced in motivating others?  What challenges do you face?  Do you talk too much in your efforts to motivate others?  Are you effective at holding others accountable?

Do Your Managers Handle Diversity Well?

14 May
by Bridget DiCello

When I search the internet for workplace diversity, results include avoiding discrimination on the basis of race, gender, age, and religion.  Multicultural workplaces and the global marketplace are also popular discussion topics.

Should managers treat people differently because of their race, gender, age, religion or country of origin?  I say, “Of course!”  People are all unique and the qualifiers that have been pulled out in the legal world are only the tip of that iceberg.

Managers have the challenge of dealing with a group of individuals.  If they all look alike, that only serves to provide a false sense of security and comfort for the manager.  Truly that group can be just as challenging to manage since they are all individuals with their own experiences, beliefs, and histories.

Leadership is about interacting effectively with members of the team to accomplish business results.  Plain and simple, leadership is about people, people are all different from one another, and similarities often only delude you into thinking you are effectively communicating with another person.

A leader’s success level results from their ability to genuinely connect with all the individuals on their team to the level where they are able to access their potential and enable that person to become the best employee they can be, while keeping each person focused on their role in achieving the business goals.

In order to connect well, a manager must:

  1. Listen to the employee with genuine interest and be acutely aware of any assumptions they are making about an individual, both positive and negative.
  2. Engage the employee in conversation to learn where the employee is coming from in order to lead them in a productive direction.
  3. Encourage creativity and innovative solutions while diligently pursuing a strong and clear set of goals, within a defined way of doing business (values and culture).
  4. Provide a structure of accountability that is fair but demanding, enforcing this company culture through a series of productive conversations to address employees’ concerns and varying approaches.
  5. Take this aggressive and discerning communication approach to each and every employee to avoid the legal headaches, but also because it is the right thing to do if you want to bring out the best in each and every employee!

Many hard-charging, driven managers who experience a great deal of success will eventually hit a wall because of challenges with their effectiveness in motivating their team to higher levels of productivity and effectiveness.  Upper management often has been trained, mentored or self taught to be more effective, where middle managers may be limited unless their ability to listen, communicate and hold people accountable results in concrete business results.

What does your management team look like?  Do they have the skills they need to take the team members in your company to the next level of performance and motivation?  Are your managers able to embrace the diversity inherent in every team, no matter how much they look alike?

Top 5 Mistakes Leaders Make when Promoting from Within

04 May
by Bridget DiCello

He was a great employee.  He was the perfect choice for the management opening.  His talents and skills, his focus on results, his expertise with customers and systems – all made him a great choice for the promotion.  Why then is he doing such a terrible job as a manager?  Did you make the wrong choice?

Too often, leaders forget that a promotion to management requires a major transition.  From being great at what they do to taking on a whole new set of tasks, to measuring their own success in completely different ways, to losing their peers who they knew and liked and gaining employees from whom they need to keep a distance, it is a traumatic experience.  Are you there to help them through it?

Here are the Top 5 Mistakes that you might have made in the transition:

1. Assumed their tactical expertise would directly translate into management expertise. Many leaders have their own story of how they were thrown into a management role and had to figure it out the hard way.  Some survive that way and some don’t.  Internal promotions also assume that the person has more knowledge about the bigger picture or that the expectations from above are clearer than they are.

Create a training outline. Every new role, whether it be for a new employee or a promoted employee, should be prefaced with a training outline – the list of things that they need to know in order to be successful in the new position, when they will be taught or expected to know/master each area, and what mastery looks like.  If there are things that they already know, they can be quickly checked off.

2. Failed to teach them the management skills necessary to thrive. Managing people requires they understand how to create and communicate expectations, connect with their direct reports, inspire them to do well, and engage them in productive accountability discussions.  These are not natural skills to most individuals and must be learned and then coached by their supervisor.

Do an honest inventory of these skills, and plan to help them to learn more in the areas which they are weak. Provide them books and resources, the opportunity for a mentor and key leadership relationships, classes or a leadership coach, and teach them yourself the areas in which you excel.  Don’t ignore a lack of skills that you have noticed from their time as an employee!  Use that information.

3. Did not set your expectations clearly. There is an incredibly long distance from what is in your head to what comes out of your mouth.  Your new manager cannot read your mind. There are many things you may expect that you have never clearly outlined or discussed, even if you have worked with them for some time. “Improve morale” may mean one thing to you and something quite different to the promoted manager.

Clarify your expectations. Ask yourself:

§what the most important tasks are that they will do

§what results you hope they will achieve

§how you’d like them to do the job – detailing only necessary details to keep them focused but giving them room to do it their way

§what other managers have done that you do not like and wish the new manager not to do and

§what deadlines you would put on each of these expectations and how you will measure whether or not they have been a success.

4. Offered no accountability. Even the best employee who takes initiative and tries their hardest will not thrive without some degree of feedback.  This step is critical and is often seen as unimportant – especially if you already know this person to be a start employee.  In order to meet your expectations and company goals, they must receive input as to what they are achieving and where they are falling short.  If delivered along the way, they have time to tweak their performance, not just to fail or survive in the end.  If you don’t provide feedback, yet let them continue to under-perform, shame on you!  If you don’t provide feedback in the areas they are doing well – don’t expect that behavior to continue!

Provide routine, expected, conversational feedback. Set a routine conversation, with a set agenda (of focus areas, new skills to learn, tasks to perfect, action items, successes, challenges, etc.).  The conversation is scheduled, the appointment is kept and the new employee is expected to be the one to prepare for and report on the agenda you have set.

5. You never asked them to think. Transition to management can be a traumatic one.  Suddenly, they are in charge and powerful, yet they’ve lost their peers and their comfort zone.  They are no longer rewarded for doing the tasks they are good at, but expected to think strategically and develop other people as well.  There are very few right answers and very few set processes in management.  Management and leadership are about getting to the results, using processes in place, improving them as necessary, solving problems and developing people. If they are not thinking – you’re in trouble.

Get them to think. Getting them to think requires that you set the direction, ask questions and get them talking about how they see the situation, possible solutions and approaches and why they will choose the avenue they choose.  Too often managers of managers still want to be the one to solve the problems even though they have a manager to lead their team to solve a problem.  Thinking through a situation can be facilitated greatly by a manager who asks the right questions instead of giving the solution.  You want your new manager to be independent, so ask them the questions and get them to think!

What mistakes have you made when promoting someone to management?  What have you done right?

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