Leaders: Is Johnny in Trouble Again?

Creating Chaos

What happened??? I simply said “Let’s chat” and it created chaos!?!?

Has this happened with you?

When you want to coach an employee and you say “Let’s chat in my office,” does it create confidence or chaos?

Principal's Office

Does it inspire great anticipation of your guidance, or gossip and the child-like “UUUuuuuuuummmmm, Jooohhnny’s in trouuuuble!”

If it’s the second choice in either question, your leadership coaching may deserve a closer look.

The outcome of coaching should provide positive reinforcement. It should create positively contagious results.

If, instead, the reaction to “let’s chat” is the one described above, this should tell you they don’t see your conversation as a pleasant experience.

You’ve reinforced the wrong reaction. You’re either training them to slack off until you “yell” or to work in a state of fear of your reaction. Either way, both examples slow productivity down to the speed of frozen molasses.

Don’t you essentially want them to stay longer, produce more, and complain less? Isn’t this the crux of whatever you wanted to “chat” about in the first place?

Leadership Myths

The challenge is many managers don’t coach and reinforce the right behavior because they believe any number of myths, such as:

  • It takes too long
  • I don’t know how to do it right
  • I’m not motivational, like Vince Lombardi. I just need them to stop doing this or that or do that better

If you’d tried to coach and failed, what you were likely doing was criticizing or disguising a discipline discussion as a coaching moment. Leaders who get the best results from their teams are the ones that coach early and often on when faced with a performance decline.

The goal of coaching is to catch the deviation from optimal performance when it first shows itself and to make a quick course correction with the buy in of the person who’s performing and it can be as easy as having a quick “CHAT.”

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So how do you coach and not create chaos?

Use a Model

As recently posted on ContagiousCommentary.com , the CHAT Model is one tool for coaching that allows you to simply get the employee’s agreement and commitment to change.

Using this model in a “drive-by” coaching moment is simple.

Using it early on in performance decline is also simple. Using it when they are already afraid of the consequences of meeting with you in your office? Not priceless… problematic!

Build Rapport

Before you use any coaching approach or model or format, it is important to have established a rapport with those you lead. Those who are seen as invaluable, “life changing” coaches and mentors are seen that way because they earned the respect, trust, and admiration of those they led.

It wasn’t because of what they said or did, but more about how they made the other person feel.

  • Are you creating fear or chaos in your office when you arrive?
  • Do they play the “wicked witch flying monkey music” when you leave?
  • Do they think you rode your broom or burrow into work most of the time?

If so, let’s get to work on changing some things…

Changing Perceptions

To change the perception they have of you, implement the following:

  • Take the time to meet with those you lead to share GOOD news without any improvements mentioned.
  • Share recognition of job’s well done both publicly and privately, depending on the needs of those you lead.
  • Ask those you lead for input and help (as found in Chapter 4 of Contagious Leadership), as they are often closer to the problem than you are and when they have the solution, they won’t argue with their own data.
  • Begin to share feedback on performance deviations BEFORE they become a big problem or frustrating for you.

Coaching and having a quick CHAT may have more in common than you once thought. In fact, even with just a quick CHAT, coaching should create buy-in and motivation to do better, as well as the knowledge or skills or steps to do so.

If it creates chaos, the human behavior of those you lead won’t be what you want, no matter what you say. What will your CHATs look like in the future of your leadership? And will the results be positively contagious? Do you know others who would benefit from this information?

Please share, tweet, or forward it to them directly. The simplest of messages can help a fellow leader lead better and feel better about their leadership.

Stay Contagious! ~ Monica.


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Monica Wofford
is CEO of Contagious Companies, Inc.
She serves her clients by getting business results and ROI for training functions
Email | LinkedIn | Twitter | WebOffice 1.866.382.0121

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3 responses to “Leaders: Is Johnny in Trouble Again?

  1. This technique is not really coaching, it may be mentoring, teaching or training.


  2. Hello John,
    Thanks for your comment on this post. While a CHAT may be seen as a more informal coaching conversation, and is, in fact, best suited for those “drive by moments” when time is limited and behavior is just beginning to be off course, this model does work well for coaching. The opportunity many leaders face is that they wait until the issue has gotten rather out of control before addressing it. They wait until they have the time to use a much more involved process for coaching and as a result, as that “time” rarely presents itself, the tendency to procrastinate addressing the issue, creeps in. Simplified coaching moments using a model such as this can head off longer term, more deeply engrained issues and can be used as proactive coaching employed by many an effective leader.

    Hope that helps to add to the use of what you see here and thanks again for sharing your thoughts. 🙂

    Stay Contagious!


  3. I agree that this is coaching, and while I basically agree with the spirit of: “Don’t you essentially want them to stay longer, produce more, and complain less?,” I feel that accepted tone and attitude skew negatively to start, requiring MORE chats. Having been a GM and later, a coach, the most efficacious style proven to work to/for me is to set high and attainable expectations clearly and then exemplify for the carefully chosen hires room and reason to work UP to match it. Recommending them a peer mentor in an unofficial capacity, also can help reinforce corporate expectations of how autonomy can be highly effective (as well as build team rapport). This includes a culture that encourages them to do their best work efficiently when at work, and then GO HOME on or as close to “on time” as possible, and squeeze all the fulfillment out of that aspect of their life possible. Then come back and be present and exceed expectations again tomorrow. By contrast, when I was a Director at another firm that valued dog-and-pony, surface OT (i.e., emails at 1AM were typical), employee productivity was labored and inconsistent. As a result where I was GM, we had extremely low (especially in our notoriously high attrition industry) turnover and averaged high productivity from a self-motivated staff. I coach the same principles for win-win company productivity and self-fulfillment ratios. If it’s culturized (read: consistently practiced), it’s sustainable.


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