One Change Leaders Can Make Right Now to Improve Tough Corrective Coaching, Part 4

My intent in this series is to address a critical leadership question: How do I correct someone without it being agonizing (and unproductive) for me and the person? How do I tell someone they’re not doing it right and they need to be better?

In Part 1, I addressed the most important factor I see in these leadership situations. Offer correction with an approach that best fits the person you are leading, NOT your own default approach or the one that works best for you.

In Part 2, I focused on planning your coaching conversation.

Part 3 concerned asking good questions and listening before telling.

This time, the stories and the behavior change.


Each person going into the conversation has their own “story”. Your story is likely combines the desired behavior change, your feelings about the fact that it hasn’t changed, your perspectives on the relationship, the impact the behavior – or lack thereof – has on how you are perceived, and, finally, your “rules” for what job success and interpersonal effectiveness look like.

The other person has a story as well. That involves such things as the person’s view of their relationship with you, their perspectives on what success in their job or role looks like, feelings about their history with the job or role, challenges they are facing both related and not related to their job/role, and their “rules” for what job success and interpersonal effectiveness look like.

Each person’s story is important. Each person perceives his or her story as “right.” Even if you are “the boss” your story isn’t more important than the person you are leading because both stories play a significant role in the perceptions, feelings and resulting behavior in question. So, the critical elements of each person’s story should come out in the conversation. Sometimes, solutions arise just by discussing stories explicitly. What does the person understand and care about? What about you?

Once the critical elements of each person story are “on the table,” it’s time to talk about the behavior change specifically. If the subject hasn’t already come up in the exchange of stories, you should communicate why the behavior change is important (see Part 2) and what specific behavior change is needed. Then be prepared to answer the person’s questions concerning what change you are looking for. And, it’s so important to keep blame and defensiveness out of the conversation. Look to the future.

I also recommend that the behavior change be communicated both verbally and in writing. The latter is important in order to evaluate the change over time. If you are uncomfortable actually exchanging a document during the meeting, I recommend a follow-up email to which you can refer later as you assess improvement. For instance:


Thanks for your time in meeting with me this afternoon.

I want to confirm our meeting in 30 days to talk about how you’re doing on the two areas of improvement we discussed. First, you will be on time for each staff meeting. Second, you will try to make your contributions in the meeting optimistic and hopeful, so that they encourage others, rather than create anxiety. As we discussed, honesty is important, but so is compassion, respect and optimism.

At our meeting on the 17th, I’ll review my notes and we’ll talk about how you’re doing and where to go from there.

I believe in you and appreciate your willingness to grow with us.

In Christ,


One question I often get involves whether you should communicate whether the person’s job or role is in jeopardy unless the behavior changes. The answer is normally not in the first meeting. After that, you should be clear about whether the person is at risk of losing their job or role if the behavior doesn’t improve if that is indeed the case.

“We both want you to be successful in this role. So this change will go a long way in ensuring that success.”

“It will be difficult for you to be successful without the changes we’re discussing.”

“This is important if you are to continue in your role.”

“Since this is an important part of your job description, you’ll need to make these changes quickly to make sure you can continue with us.”

Finally, follow-up is critical once you’ve had the conversation. You should set a follow-up meeting about 30 days in the future to review the person’s progress. If all is going well, schedule another meeting 60 days after that one. On the other hand, if you don’t see improvement, you may have to schedule a follow-up very soon after the first meeting. Ultimately, once you have communicated the desired behavior change, you shouldn’t allow any future problems to occur without being addressed directly.

Up next, the power of proactivity.


  1. […] Part 4: Understanding the stories that contribute to the situation and using them to guide behavior. […]