Coach's corner: Be blunt and direct to help newcomer

  • Article by: LIZ REYER
  • Special to the Star Tribune
  • January 26, 2014 - 2:00 PM

Q: One of the new guys on my team is energetic and talented; how do I also help him become able to learn from others and ask questions when he should? He’s getting in his own way.

A: Be blunt if you need to, while sending a message that you’re invested in his success.

The inner game

First off, how do you feel about him? Does his energy energize or drain you? Are you frustrated or challenged? As his manager, it’s up to you to provide an environment that supports him while also looking out for the team, the company and, of course, yourself. Take some time to calmly assess the situation, using your breath to become grounded.

Now, think specifically about the behaviors you’re concerned about. For example, he may cut people off if they’re offering suggestions, refuse assistance from you or be defensive about errors. You’ll need to be able to detail the issues you’re seeing.

Get feedback from others about his performance. This will give you more information to use and help guard against the possibility that you’re just reacting to style differences.

Outline your vision for his development opportunities.

Finally, reflect on yourself early in your career, others you’ve observed and managers you’ve seen who have helped employees work though a similar dynamic.

The outer game

Let’s assume that you’re starting from scratch in trying to get through to him. If you’re not doing regular one-on-one meetings with him, it’s definitely time to start. Regular conversations about your expectations are essential in order to accomplish the changes you’re seeking.

Speaking of expectations, if you haven’t developed specific performance objectives, those need to be defined.

You may encounter some resistance. If so, think about it from his perspective. This behavior may mask insecurity; if he has always been one of the smartest people in the room, it can be hard to be just starting out. You need to call him on that, but in a supportive way.

If his behavior has resulted in errors, inefficiencies or other negative outcomes, be clear about it. Try, “you did this, this was the result, these are the implications.” Sometimes it’s necessary to be really direct — “these errors could have cost the company thousands of dollars if the job had gone to print …”

Arrange for a mentor; a knowledgeable person who isn’t in direct authority can be very helpful. If you don’t get through to him? Let him know the implications if he can’t adapt; he might not be in the right company and need to look elsewhere. If he wants to be there, that should get his attention.

The last word

Some new professionals need strong leadership in order to reach their potential; this is your opportunity to help him on his path.

What challenges do you face at work? Send your questions to Liz Reyer, a credentialed coach and president of Reyer Coaching & Consulting in Eagan. She can be reached at

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