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  • Writer's pictureTerry Dockery


The leader seethed with indignation as he yelled at his sales team, “What on earth are you guys thinking!? My grandmother could have done a better job! You better go home tonight and take a good long look in the mirror and decide who you really are, because you are awful! Everybody’s paycheck is going to be docked for this train wreck of a sales quarter!”

If you’re a betting person (which you must be in some capacity every day if you’re alive and walking on the planet), what do you think the odds are that this team’s leader will get the improvement he wants with this coaching approach? This reminds me of too many high school football coaches I’ve seen—they seem to think that punishment is the best and only answer for all performance problems. Do you think a little different approach might yield better results?

A very large component of high-performance leadership is high-performance coaching, and it consists of 3 steps:

1) Inspiring

2) Instructing

3) Holding accountable


  • Keep it fun or people will run. Appeal to enlightened self-interest; folks won’t stick with a goal that is not enjoyable for very long. Example: “This is going to be a blast; we’re going to make a ton of money and have fun doing it (legally)!”

  • Paint a detailed vision of future success. Example: “Think of how our department will be the darling of the company!”

  • Encourage a positive, confident, can-do attitude. Example: “I know you guys can do this, and I have confidence in every one of you!” (If you don’t have confidence, then either you’re goals are unrealistic or you don’t have the right people).


  • Teach people how to be successful. Example: “I think we could all increase our individual paychecks and the performance of the department if we had some advanced training in effective closing techniques.”

  • Understand the stages of skill acquisition, and realize that new skills take training, coaching, and practice. Example: “We have engaged a training company that will provide us with advanced training and follow up coaching, and we will form internal mentor groups to help each other with these skills until we are excellent at them.”

  • Provide feedback on skill acquisition (at least 80% of it positive if at all possible) to reinforce skill acquisition and continued motivation. Example: “You’re doing a great job in assessing the situation. Now, I believe you can get an even better closing ratio if you tweak the way you present your summary a little.”

Holding accountable

  • No, this does not mean to punish first and foremost!

  • Provide feedback on overall performance toward measurable goals (at least 80% positive, if at all possible). Example 1: “You’ve met 4 of the 5 individual goals we set for this year. Congratulations! Let’s talk about the fifth one. Do we need to change the goal of 75% closes or our approach to achieving it?”

  • Example 2: “One of our core values here is teamwork, and candidly your peer rating of 40% teamwork effectiveness is hurting the performance of our department. Can we talk about what’s going on from your perspective and determine whether we can find a way to create a win for you and the team on this issue?”

  • Example 3: “I’m afraid that after a great deal of feedback, training, and coaching your performance is still not where we need it to be. Your performance scores continue to be below average on 4 of the 5 dimensions. This isn’t working out; I’m going to have to let you go. I wish you the best in your future endeavors.”


Technique #1: Inspire those you coach to achieve their full potential by keeping it fun/appealing to enlightened self-interest, and by encouraging positive thinking and self-confidence.

Technique #2: Instruct those you coach so they can acquire the necessary skills to be successful; provide mostly positive feedback and be reasonably patient about the time required to acquire new skills.

Technique #3: Hold those you coach accountable to measurable individual and team goals in a mostly positive way.

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