Understandably, lots of managers at all levels struggle to have work-related coaching conversations. Typically, they are not something we’ve learned about in school, we lack a method, and in too many cases, find ourselves without a good example. So, using a contemporary, very public situation that has played out of late, here’s one example of what a good coach might say if they had five minutes alone with the new Commander in Chief, and a mandate to make it count. Tomorrow, we’ll dissect it and try to give you some tips:
Coach: Mr. President, I’ve been retained by the American people to provide you with some executive coaching, some fresh insight perhaps. My first question is to ask whether or not you are amenable to working with a coach, because it is truly your choice.
Prez: I’m not sure I feel the need, but for now, I’m willing to hear you out. You’ve got five minutes. Use them wisely.
Coach: I’m seeing some things that I believe are keeping you from being as successful as you can, and probably would like to be in your new job. Are you interested in discussing that?
Coach: You’re off to a very energetic start in your new job, and that’s a good thing because there is a lot to be done. It’s impressive. But, that good start is being overshadowed by your seemingly incessant need to re-litigate perceived slights about crowd sizes, the outcome of the popular vote in an election that you won handily, essentially anything and everything that pertains to you, your stature, your image, your brand. I understand perfectly that in your prior life, your brand WAS your business, and you did a fantastic job of building and nurturing that brand, but you’ve put that business in somebody else’s hands now. We’ve moved on, you’re in a new role, and to the extent that you continue to use the presidency to leverage your brand, you will fail at both endeavors. And, there there are other consequences.
Prez: Like what?
Coach: Like the fact that members of your staff are having to take time away from important work that you’ve assigned them, and risk their own reputations to fight unnecessary fires that you’ve caused with the public, the media, the CIA…
Prez: F___ the media.
Coach: Excuse me, I wasn’t done. And the fact that there is a significant and growing global public opinion that you’ve taken leave of your senses. Notice I said that with a completely straight face. I don’t say that to hurt you, but nobody else seems willing or able to tell you the truth… I will. Make that, I just did.
Prez: Do you think I’ve taken leave of my senses?
Coach: I’m not trained in clinical diagnosis, but the thought has crossed my mind. As for the media, Mark Twain once said, “Never pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel.” There’s some truth to that because there’s more of them than there are of you, and you of all people know that they’ve got a lot of time and space to fill. To the extent possible, let’s make sure that they fill it with stuff that advances not frustrates your agenda for the nation. Some fights aren’t worth having, at least on an everyday basis. That’s one of them.
Prez: So, what are you recommending that I do?
Coach: You’re not going to like this first one, but you absolutely need to apologize to some people that you’ve offended or made life more difficult for by having to clean up unnecessary messes that you made. And I’m not talking about one of those wimpy, insincere apologies like the one you gave to Carly during the primary debate. You need to apologize and mean it. It doesn’t have to be public, but you have to do it. You need to figure out how to say, “I’m sorry” with the same authenticity that you used to say, “You’re fired.”
Prez: (after a long pause) So who is on the apology list?
Coach: My 5 minutes is up. Why don’t you think about that and we’ll resume our conversation tomorrow. Meanwhile, can I get your commitment that in the meantime, you won’t utter another word about you to anyone but your executive assistant, a family member, or me?
Prez: Okay, I guess.
Coach: You don’t seem too fired up about that. What’s up?
Prez: I’ll do as you asked.
Coach: Great, I look forward to seeing you tomorrow. Have a good night, sir.