#116: Coaching the Uncoachable
John (Intro): I have been on a quest to learn everything I can about leadership obsessed with what makes the best leaders so good. After running companies small and large for the last 20 years, today I speak on stages all across the world to audiences who are interested in that same question. My name is John Laurito and I’m your host. I invite you to join me on this journey as we explore this topic: What makes the best leaders so good? Welcome to Tomorrow’s Leader.
John: All right, welcome to today’s episode of Tomorrow’s Leader, where we dive deep on all things leader related, related to leading yourself and leading others. I am John Laurito, your host. Today’s topic is one that I know plagues a lot of leaders. I have talked to many, many leaders in many different industries who have had the problem of leading somebody or trying to lead somebody who is uncoachable. And I talk to leaders all the time about the very fact, especially leaders that lead large organizations, that you have decisions that you have to make in terms of where you’re investing your time, energy, and resources. And ultimately you’re going to find people that are not coachable and you’re going to find some that are very coachable. And obviously, it makes sense and a better return on the investment of your time, energy, and money to work on those people that are coachable and receptive to your advice and your leadership and guidance and support and direction and everything. But what I do find sometimes is leaders make the decision in their mind that somebody is uncoachable when in reality they may not be. So I’m going to give you some tips, some thoughts, some hints of things that I’ve learned over the years to break down the walls and ultimately coach the people that are uncoachable. So today’s topic is how to do that.
John: And I want to start with one premise I want you to think about and that is, what does it take for somebody to follow you? You yourself have maybe been coached by others or influenced by others. What does it take ultimately to follow somebody and cause you to open up and be receptive to their advice or guidance or direction? And in reality, it comes down oftentimes to two things and really two things. Only one is that you trust this individual. You understand that this person and believe that this person has your best interests in mind. You trust them implicitly, you trust what they say. And you do know that they have your best interests as a priority. That’s number one. Without that, it is hard. It’s not impossible, but it’s hard for somebody to be coachable and want to be coached by you. That’s number one. I’m going to come back to that in a second.
John: Secondly, though, is they have to have confidence in you, confidence that they feel that you can help them, that you can provide them with something that’s missing, something that they need to ultimately reach their goals. So those are the two things that are really important. Trust that you have their best interests in mind. They trust you, they believe in you and believe you. And then secondly, that they have confidence in you. Now, I will tell you this. There are some situations where people will hire a coach that may not have one of those, and I’ll give you a great example.
John: For a very brief period of time, I hired a coach where this individual had a skill set in something that I really needed and wanted to develop. It was an area I was trying to get into my business that I did not have expertise in. And this person had huge amounts of expertise.
And I hired this individual for a specified period of time to learn from this person a certain level of skill sets that I needed and didn’t have. Now I knew and really felt that this person did not really care about me. To be honest, I didn’t take it personally. This person was very, very successful, had a zillion different things on his plate. I hired him for a specific job. He was a very kind of abrupt individual, not a whole lot of time. It was short interactions for this period of time.
John: It was just not a very warm and fuzzy relationship. And that’s fine. That’s not what I was hiring this person to do. Did I think that he really had my best interests in mind? Of course, I don’t think he would have given me bad advice. I think he did want me to succeed. I don’t think that he really cared significantly about me. He did not show me that whether I was continuing with him or not the only main thing he was looking for was my money. And that’s OK. He had a business and he thrived on the fact that he was incredibly successful and what he did and knew that people would pay to get that advice and guidance. I got what I wanted out of that relationship. I think he did, too, but it was short-lived. So is it possible to build a relationship to that, to coach somebody when they don’t necessarily have full trust and feel that you care about them? Yes, but only for a brief period of time. That’s my example.
John: Now, what I will say, as many of you know, and I’ve had him on this show before, Peter Vilardi has been my coach for many years, for probably seven years. I know, Peter, not only do I have incredible amounts of confidence in him because of his background and experience and mindset and intellect, and he knows me and I think provides outstanding advice and guidance is somebody that I can bounce ideas off. He gives me great perspective and tells it like it is. That’s what I’m looking for and I trust him. 100%. I know this guy has my best interests in mind. I know he cares about me. He knows me. He knows my goals. We’ve been working together for many years, so I have those two things. And that’s because of those two things, is why we have had such a long term, not just personal relationship, but also a business relationship. He is my coach. So the question is, and the best of people understand, the better that you get, the more that you need that outside advice. Top CEOs, I’ve talked about this before, Fortune 50, Fortune 100 CEOs all have an advisor that they pay, that they hire to provide them some outside advice, if nothing else. Sometimes it’s just a sounding board. You need that. Today, I was consulting actually with two people getting advice, one of which was Peter and one was somebody else advice on something. I was looking to do, something I was looking to put out. Hey, give me advice on how this sounds. How does this look? Everybody needs at whatever level that you’re at, whatever size organization you’re leading. But what I want to talk about is knowing those two things, trust needs to be their confidence that you can help them and that they can get your help. Those two things need to be there.
John: Let’s talk about why people tend to not be coachable, because if you understand the reasons why they at least appear to not be coachable or put up that barrier. And I see this a lot of times when somebody as a corporate leader or a business leader or maybe even a coach taking over a team, they’ll come across those individuals that just put up the walls. They don’t want to hear it. They don’t want to then want to listen to you. They don’t want they’re just tough to work with. So many leaders just kind of shrug their shoulders and they move on to the next person when in reality this person can be coached. Here are some reasons, typically, why somebody may not be, as we talk about coachable.
John: One is they may have had a bad experience with a coach. They may have tried letting somebody into their world and be coached. Then it just turned out to be a really bad experience. That’s OK. But as you know, past experiences dictate future experiences. But I might not know that unless I ask the questions. Have you ever worked with somebody? Have you ever let somebody give you some advice or kind of let you in, let them into your world? That’s number one. Two is they could be the type of person that’s the know-it-all that has an ego that just feels like they have all the answers. They don’t need any help. OK, hey, listen, I know everything. I don’t need any help. I don’t need your opinion. I don’t need your advice. OK, that’s one type of individual. And that’s one reason they may not be coachable. The third reason is they may be insecure. And what I mean by that is, well, a coach, a good coach, a good leader is going to not only help them leverage their strengths but is also going to point out where the gaps and the opportunities and the weaknesses might be. Some people don’t want to put themselves in that situation and hearing that they just don’t have the confidence or the self-esteem to be able to handle that negative or critical feedback. That’s one very good reason.
John: Another reason is you’ve got people that are just do-it-yourselfers. They want to succeed and fail on their own. And let me tell you, I’m raising my hand. I was one of these individuals for a long period of time in my career. Listen, I just didn’t ask for help. Now, granted, when it came to me, I sometimes took it. I usually did, sometimes more than others or less than others. But I know there’s a period of time I was hard to lead because I was not very coachable. And part of it, for some reason, I just felt like, hey, I got to figure this thing out on my own. Now, I think that slowed my progress down not only a business but probably in life. I probably could have gotten in a year where it took me three or four or five years to get if I just wasn’t a nugget head there in that period of time in my life and actually let into my life good coaches and good leaders, or at least let them in a little bit more and followed their advice. So for those of you that are like me, don’t be a nugget head. Listen to good people, people that you trust and have confidence in, and allow yourself to build that trust, allow yourself to build the relationship. Allow yourself to let that person into your world a little bit.
John: But let’s about the coach. Let’s talk about that side of it. So sometimes it’s understanding the coachee, OK, what’s holding them back from being coachable? But as a coach, as a leader, we have to look in the mirror because more times than not, it’s me. Now, oftentimes, it might be my approach. OK, so the first question to ask yourself. Am I approaching this person the right way? I remember I had somebody that wanted to coach me and work with me and the approach that they took was, you know, they kind of went at it, it was all about them, you know, their initial conversation with me was why they’re so great, how they do what they’re doing. They’re so incredibly successful, and then immediately went to poke holes in what I am doing and their perception of what I’m doing. Which they really didn’t even know me. I didn’t know this person. They kind of came out of the blue and kind of challenging me on, you know, things that I’ve done and accomplishments and this and that. And it was basically almost like an attack. And I cut this person off, I said, listen, honesty is this legitimately how you approach a potential client? I mean, is this legitimately your sales approach in trying to get me to work with you? I mean, because I got to tell you, all you’re doing is pissing me off. This is absolutely ridiculous and horrendous. If this is actually your real approach, I legitimately have this conversation with this person. It obviously ended badly. This person circled back to me months and months later, very kind of apologetic. But you know what? The damage was already done. This is, you know, zillions of people I could
have gotten advice from. This was not going to be one of them. That was going to be my world.
John: So sometimes it’s the approach. And I’m not saying that you’ve had any kind of resemblance to this person in your approach, but if I work with somebody, let’s say I’m starting to work with an individual, a leader, or somebody on my team, that’s new. My relationship is new, and I’m coming at them and I’m pushing too hard or I’m being too forceful or I’m telling them what to do. That’s probably not going to result unless somebody is genuinely raising their hand and saying, hey, I need your help, I want your help, come tell me what to do. That’s probably not going to be the way to start the relationship right away. The guard’s going to go up and you’re not going to get somebody who’s going to be very coachable. Okay, so that’s the first thing is what is my approach here are some of the best ways to approach a relationship like that.
John: Oftentimes people want help. They just don’t know what they don’t know. They don’t know necessarily what they need help in or with. But if they will let the right person into their life or into their business or into their world, then suddenly the things that they don’t even know, they don’t know become, they become aware. They suddenly become instead of unconsciously incompetent, that coach helps them become consciously incompetent, be aware of the things that might be wrong, become consciously competent, really leverage the things that they’re doing really well, and all of a sudden they become unconsciously competent. That’s a competency ladder. Covered that in a prior episode. So go back and listen to that if you get a chance to. But ultimately, what this starts off with is understanding what some of these goals are. Oftentimes, you can just break down those barriers by asking the right question. Hey, I understand you may not be someone who feels they need a coach. You may not need a coach. You may not need any help. You may not need any advice. But if every so often I could provide something that I think might be valuable, are you OK with me sharing it with you? Would you be OK with me shooting an email every once in a while, or would you be OK with me dropping a call every once in a while, dropping a line just to let you know of something I think might be valuable? If you don’t find it valuable you don’t think it is? Let me know. That’s fine. I’ll stop if you do and you want more. Great, I’ll keep giving you more.
John: So if I can just get them open to something and then my job is just simply to try to provide value. And the way I look at it is if I can give them something that makes them 1% better. And honestly, that’s all I’m trying to do. I’m not trying to change their world. If I can give them something, a piece of advice, some information, connect them with someone, connect them with a resource, help them avoid a disaster or some kind of little roadblock, help them clear a roadblock, anything. All I’m trying to do is make their life and their world 1% better. If I can do that, I’ve just opened up the door, another crack, and then I do it again. I open it up again and then I do it again. I open it up again. So what I find is those people that we label as being uncoachable are actually very coachable. It just takes the right approach. They don’t force it. OK, I see a lot of people just trying to break through that door with a battering ram. Hey, you know what? It’s not going to work. It’s just not going to work. And you can’t coach somebody who’s really not coachable, who doesn’t want to be coached. So the question is, can you get somebody who appears to not want to be coached to be receptive to your leadership? That’s it. That’s really all it is. I just want to make a little 1% difference.
John: And sometimes I’ll say that to somebody. Listen, if I could help you in any way, even make 1% difference, would that be valuable if it wasn’t an immense amount of time? If I could just give you a little nugget here, a little nugget there. If it was something I could add some value to, to make your life and your business easier, better, more productive, more profitable, would that happier, less stress, more stress-free, more enjoyable, more fun? Would that be worth it? Yes. Great. Terrific. Now it’s up to me to deliver on that. That’s it. All I’m trying to do is get the opportunity to deliver and show what I can do. What I find is over time, the best leaders are great at that. You know, I remember leading organizations of 200 people. You’ve got to ultimately you got to start where and great quote. I learned from somebody actually fairly recently. I heard I heard somebody say this is “meet them where they want to be met”, write that down. If you’re in a place where you can write something down, “meet them where they want to be met”.
John: What I mean by that is starting in the areas they want help in and everybody needs some help in some areas. So, listen, if I want to start over here in this direction, but they’re looking for some help over in this area. Great. All right. Let me help them in that area. Why
not? That’s going to just open the door to a future productive and valuable relationship. Right? So why not meet them where they want to be met? They see leaders that are always, you know, hey, you want to go over here now? I want to go over in this direction, this direction, this direction. Now, it’s not going to work, OK, ultimately. And maybe you get that person focused or at least listening to you for a little bit. But guess what? If you’ve heard the saying you win the battle, but you lose the war. Yeah, you won that one interaction. You force them to listen to your item, your agenda item that you had on your list that day, but you ultimately didn’t hit the things that were important to them and you know why? Chances are it was because you didn’t ask them the question, what’s important to you?
John: Here’s a great question that I’ve said in previous episodes to. Hey, three years from now, I just want to understand, first of all, before I ask this question, I want to understand what’s important to you, and I want to understand what your vision is. So three years we were sitting here, three years from now and you were extremely happy with where you were personally and professionally. Tell me about it. What’s happened? OK, so three years from now, again, I’ll say it again three years from now, you are extremely happy with what’s happened personally and professionally. Tell me about it. What’s happened? And then the next follow up question is, listen, how can I best help you get there? What obstacles can I help you remove? What challenges are you having right now? Issues? What keeps you up at night? What’s the thing that’s stressing you out the most? Because if I can help with that and help again, make your life in your world a little bit easier, a little better, the chances of you reaching those goals a little bit higher, then great. Then our relationship is productive and it’s worthwhile. Does that sound fair? OK, that’s all I’m trying to do. I’m just trying to get their openness for me to start providing some value. That’s it. OK, value, value, value, value. If you provide value, ultimately, people are going to be receptive, right? It’s the people that are asking for stuff, hey, I want your buy and let’s work together. Now, listen, show them how you can help them first provide that value. The barriers will be removed. Suddenly that uncoachable person becomes very, very coachable. And ultimately, that’s what leadership is about, influencing people to do the things that they wouldn’t have been able to do or would have done without your help. That is leadership.
John: So I hope you’ve gotten something out today. I hope there’s been value. Shoot me a message. Let me know. Also, let me know one of the topics you’d like to hear, as well as suggestions for future guests. We get a lot of great topics, a lot of great guests planned coming up. So stay tuned, keep subscribing, keep liking sharing. Send me the comments and of course, go down below. Give me a five-star review, please, and let me know with your comments specifically why you gave me that five-star review. So thanks again. Enjoy the day. We’ll talk to you next time. Take care.
John (Closing): Thanks for joining us on today’s episode of Tomorrow’s Leader. For suggestions, or inquiries, about having me at your next event, or personal coaching, reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org Once again, that’s email@example.com. Thanks! Lead on!