“I forgot to shake hands and be friendly. It was an important lesson about leadership.”

Lee Iacocca

Many of you know that my wife and I raise guide dog puppies for the blind through a great organization called Guide Dogs of America.  Our latest puppy is named Enzo and he is about a year old now.

Like people, there is a great diversity of “personality” and ability to learn in guide dogs.  Some guide dogs seem to be almost “robotic” in their competence but may not be as warm and lovable as others.  Others are very challenging to train but incredibly playful and loving–particularly those who undergo a career change and wind up in a loving family but can’t make the grade to actually become a guide dog.

We all know talent who get a lot done but how they go about doing it might be described as “cut throat”, overly competitive and lacking in core interpersonal warmth and empathy.  They get a lot done but can often leave “dead bodies” behind.  These type of individuals are often referred to as competent jerks.  Coaching these individuals is always a challenge because they will often throw up their accomplishments, achievements and “numbers” as metrics of “success.”

Indeed, they often have a long history of very solid performance evaluations that make it difficult to constructively confront these individuals and reveal to them that they could be even more productive and successful if they further developed their social competence and interpersonal skills.

PERFORMANCE ENHANCEMENT COACHING (High Performance/Low Interpersonal Competence)

Talent demonstrating generally high job performance (i.e., they meet or exceed objective standards of performance) but characterized as less likable or interpersonally competent can best be helped by utilizing a Performance Enhancement model of coaching.

These clients are at risk for potential “derailment” at some point in their career and might be described as “competent” but “difficult” to deal with.  As a result, others may find collaborating and interacting with these individuals quite challenging and actually attempt to avoid them when possible.

In this model, the focus of improvement is developing social, interpersonal and communication skills that seem to almost always describe the “difficult” part of the client.  Generally, coaches will utilize both personality/style and multi-rater feedback assessments (e.g., a focus on emotional intelligence) to help illuminate the interpersonal “blind spots” of the client.

Most coaching assignments will require a lengthier intervention to ensure that client’s fully understand how they are being experienced and perceived by others and the potentially negative impact of his/her leadership, communication and interpersonal style.

Such clients are expected to be somewhat defensive and challenging as they sometimes lack the “self-awareness” or self-insight characterized by relatively low emotional intelligence (see www.eiconsortium.org for additional resources and information on the topic of emotional intelligence).

Per Enhancement

Performance Enhancement Coaching Strategies

  • Provide direct and candid feedback asking for what you want the person to do more, less or differently particularly in the interpersonal area
  • Consider utilizing mentors and internal coaches to help them to avoid derailment
  • Utilize a 360-feedback process and development plan focusing on enhancing interpersonal competence
  • Measure/monitor team, department and staff engagement (climate)
  • Introduce and utilize a “balanced scorecard” to emphasize both task and interpersonal factors associated with performance

These aren’t the easiest coaching assignments–I’ve failed more times than I am willing to admit.

However, using some of the techniques of the Performance Enhancement coaching model you might just find the “crease” with some to help them to become more aware of how their style, approach and personality impacts others.

It’s so interesting that when we are “working” with Enzo by putting on his guide dog “bib” he becomes much more obedient and less “puppy like.”  Take the bib off and he returns to that 10-month year old puppy full of energy, playfulness and warmth that makes him so adorable and loving….Be well….

Kenneth Nowack, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist (PSY13758) and President & Chief Research Officer/Co-Founder of Envisia Learning, is a member of the Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations. Ken also serves as the Associate Editor of Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research. His recent book Clueless: Coaching People Who Just Don’t Get It is available for free for a limited time by signing up for free blog updates (Learn more at our website)

Posted in Engagement, Leadership Development, Relate

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