Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Coaching Employees - The Chronic Excuser

By: CMOE Development Team

Most of us find coaching employees to be an effective, even enjoyable, approach to leadership and management. Coaching provides a way to help team members grow and develop, while achieving business objectives. But occasionally, we encounter a team member who has an excuse for every situation. How can we help team members like this accept responsibility and focus on solutions, rather than dwell on the reasons why things aren’t accomplished? How can we ensure that we really gain commitment and consensus on plans, assignments, and projects?

Coaching Employees and Advice

First, it’s important to remember that excuses come in two flavors. The first, called Type I excuses, usually surface when raising performance issues with a team member.

“It’s not my fault. It’s those guys in Operations. They don’t deliver my product on time, and the customer gets upset with me.”

“I wasn’t able to get that report in on time because my computer was down for two days. You should talk to I.S.—it’s their problem.”

As we try to help the team member accept personal responsibility, we should never let an excuse go unaddressed. However, with a “chronic excuser,” it can feel like an endless cycle.

Some excuses, called Type 2 excuses, are legitimate. These excuses are an important signal. Left unaddressed, Type 2 excuses can result in team members feeling insecure, unsupported, and frustrated. Team members may have real concerns about the plans you’ve created, or their ability to follow through on them.

Openly addressing Type 2 excuses allows you to review the plans you’ve made, make sure they’re viable, and reinforce your confidence in the team member.

Exercising patience in listening will help you weed out the real obstacles from the smokescreens. You can demonstrate support by removing legitimate obstacles. You can also teach a powerful lesson in accountability by exposing the smokescreens.

Excuses also generally arise when establishing a plan. For team members with low confidence or little experience, it can be frightening to make commitments, and they may feel a need to “hedge their bets.” When a team member raises a concern indicating that circumstances beyond his/her control might prevent them from achieving their goal, this sends a message that they’re not sure they can carry out the plan.

As you make a pattern of confronting – in a supportive, cooperative way – the excuses made by reluctant team members, you’ll convey an important message about your commitment to accomplishing goals, helping your team members improve, and establishing a spirit of accountability in your work.

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