Coach Them “Up” or Coach Them “Out”

Written by on July 20, 2014

You did it. After combing through tons of resumes and interviewing everyone that showed an interest, you hired the perfect person for the job. The first few weeks are exciting, even a relief. You immediately trust that your new hire will be able to tackle their new position with complete competence and execution, which they do…..for a while.   Then it happens. A few missteps, a misunderstanding or two, and finally a royal screw up. You start thinking that you made a mistake. You should have hired the other one. After all, it was a tough decision. Come to think of it, you actually even liked the other candidate better. Perhaps they are still available? Maybe you can hire them after all?


Maybe you are new to your job and you have inherited your team. Everyone seems really eager to please you….for a while. You still have the honeymoon period but at some point, the same thing happens.  You start to think you have the wrong person for the job.

Regardless of how it happens, the scenario is inevitable.

In all of the companies I have consulted with, the first few meetings always include discussions around a few people that are on the proverbial chopping block. I sit and listen to the justification for firing them. I immediately have 3 questions:

  1. Why haven’t you fired them already?
  2. Have you told them everything you are unhappy with about their performance? (I mean a totally honest conversation).
  3. Did you give them a plan and a timeline to turn things around?

Let’s go back to YOUR first few months on the job.  Do you remember how hard it was? I do. I was qualified but not confident. Combine the lack of confidence with the lack of communication and you have the makings of a short career. I’m lucky. I have had people willing to “coach me up”.

Great leaders understand that the “honeymoon” period is the perfect time to establish the proper expectations for your new hire. It is the perfect time to make sure you communicate exactly what is expected and what is needed for them to be successful.  It is your responsibility to make sure you coach people “up” to the expectations you have of them. Their progress does not, will not, and cannot happen, without you taking a proactive role.

Your responsibility is to continue to provide the feedback until you decide they can’t do the job. Coaching them “out” is the process of giving them the necessary feedback until it is crystal clear they “cannot” or “will not” be able to perform the job. It’s not fair to make the decision they can’t until you have consistently communicated your expectations. (Consistently)

Coaching them “up” until you coach them “out” will yield growth, change, improvement, and much needed strategic communication. It will also yield high performing employees, which is the true role of leadership.