Uncoachable or something else?

I was asked an interesting question recently.

What are the signs an employee is uncoachable? What options should be exhausted before a possible termination?

Both the questions above are strong questions by themselves, with distinct answers. But when asked together, they take a different meaning altogether.

If coaching is coming into the picture at a stage where you are asking, “Have I exhausted all options before termination?” you are already far into the zone of the un-coachable. You may be well-intentioned and really want to do just everything possible to help your team member, or more likely you have made up your mind to terminate, and are using coaching for the right optics or just to cover your back.

Sometimes people confuse Coaching with Performance Management. Coaching is an excellent option to consider when things are going well and can be improved further. When someone is delivering on their objectives, but has room for growth. For honing strengths further, or working through some blind spots or limiting beliefs. Of course,  you can use coaching skills in Performance Management, and you should. But believing  you are doing all you can to save someone from being fired by hiring a coach for them, is akin to giving someone for a gym membership while they are being wheeled into the operating theatre for a cardiac arrest.

Coming to signs of being Uncoachable. A very clear one is when someone is constantly in the blame game or complaining zone. These are people who have outsourced taking responsibility for anything that is not going right.  It may be difficult (though not impossible) to coach them. There are a few other too, but more on that later.


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