Coaching the Tough Situations

coaching tough situationsWe’ve looked at how to use the G.R.O.W. model to coach performance and behaviors.  But sometimes the situation you are coaching is dire and calls for a more forceful approach.  In those cases, we’ll still use the G.R.O.W. model, but we’ll modify it to fit the occasion.

As with any coaching session, we’ll still want to start with the Goal.  Something like:  “Sarah, as you know, our goal is to create a culture of service excellence at our facility.”

Then move to the Reality by describing the behavior:  “Sarah, I watched as you …” or “I noticed that you …”  Here you’ll want to state the behavior you observed.  Then, as part of the Reality step, you’ll want to point out the impact that behavior has on the team, on the customer, on the culture, on the work environment, or any other impact it might have.  For instance,

“Sarah the rest of the team here looks to you as a model for leading a service-excellence culture.  When they hear you speak to a customer in that tone, it sends a message to them that service-excellence isn’t all that important to us and that it’s okay to adopt the same practice.”

The next thing you’ll want to do is get the perspective of the person whose behavior is in question:  “Sarah, help me to understand why you think this has become an issue lately.”

So far we’ve stayed in the Goal and the Reality stages of coaching.  Now it’s time to move to the Options stage:  “Sarah, what do you suggest we do to change this behavior and ensure it doesn’t happen again?”  We’re accomplishing two things with this statement.  First, we’re transferring ownership for improvements to the person you’re coaching.  Second, we’re suggesting by the strength and resolve of the statement that not changing is not an option.

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Now, once we have a suggestion or two from Sarah, and we’ve added our own ideas to the mix, it’s time to move to the next step in the G.R.O.W. process, which is the Way Forward.  Specify a plan:  “Sarah, going forward what I would like you to do is …” Or “What I would like to see from you is …” Or “Sarah, my expectation is that from now on you will …”  Here you simply reiterate the suggestions for improvement that Sarah herself thought of, as well as any suggestions of your own.

So far we’ve stayed pretty much in line with the G.R.O.W. coaching model that we covered in a previous series.  But now we’re going to add something new to the mix to accommodate the severity of the behavior.  As part of the Way Forward, we want to communicate clear, unambiguous consequences if the behavior continues:

“Sarah, I want to be clear that if I see this behavior again, or if I see no improvement by our next meeting, the consequences will be . . .”

Here you’ll want to state the clear consequences and the timelines for improvements.  Be sure to clarify with your HR generalist just how those consequences can be stated.

Then be sure to check-in with Sarah on how all this is landing with her:  “Sarah, What questions do you have about this?”  Get her perspective on it, and her commitment to make improvements.  Using this method for coaching the difficult situations will give you the best chance for success that you won’t see this behavior again.

That’s it for this edition of the Support EDGE.  Until next time, be sure all your development initiatives are performance-drive and outcomes-based.


Eric Svendsen, Ph.D., is principal and lead consultant of SCInc., a learning and development consulting company. Eric has over 20 years experience in creating and executing results-oriented, outcomes-based learning and development initiatives aligned to corporate goals. He specializes in leadership development and coaching, and leading organizational culture-change initiatives around customer support and safety leadership. Eric was personally involved in the development of certification standards, performance standards, exam validation, competency models and training for the customer-support and technical-support industry, and was instrumental in the creation of the only performance-based certification in that industry.

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