There are many reasons why a leader could be struggling to successfully manage daily tasks.   If they have taken on new responsibilities or a new role, they may have a skill deficiency or development need that wasn’t obvious before.  Even if you’ve provided training opportunities or general transition support, your leaders may benefit from targeted coaching around specific behaviors and skills.

What strategies are effective with the Struggling Performer (Tasks)?

Leaders who are struggling with a new role or task may be feeling insecure, uncomfortable and may be unaware of how their performance gaps are impacting their colleagues.  First, make sure that they are fully aware of the issue – before they start a coaching engagement – so that they are clear on desired outcomes and are invested in the process.

Be specific about how the leader is contributing to performance challenges and provide detailed feedback about how their behaviors impact others within the organization.  360 degree feedback may be beneficial to raise their awareness and reveal blind spots  – especially if the leader isn’t readily accepting the feedback you’re providing.  If they haven’t received formal feedback from colleagues since they’ve taken on new responsibilities or a new role, this may be the input and motivation they need to address development needs.  Keep in mind that the leader’s colleagues should have about 6 months of experience working with them before providing formal feedback.

Once you’re confident that the leader has understood the issue, get them involved in identifying the solution. Get their suggestions and ideas for addressing their development needs and develop a plan together.  This will give them the opportunity to be responsible, proactive, and to learn about tools that can they can use in the future to address their own development needs.  If they are working with a coach or starting a coaching engagement, make sure that the coach has experience working with leaders with similar development needs and will encourage the leader to take an active role in the process.

What strategies are not effective?

Don’t just give them a book to read or sign them up for a class.   A class or book may be very helpful, but it’s unlikely that this will alone solve the issue and improve the leader’s performance.  Show them that the organization is committed to their success by providing a variety of development options.

Arguing with them or making accusations isn’t effective – at any stage of the development process.  Help them to understand the need for further development and check in with them to let them know that you are interested in their development, want them to succeed, and are following their progress.

To learn more about how to support the development of your Struggling Performers (Tasks), watch our recent webinar, “Leadership Coaching Strategies: How to Set Your Leaders Up For Success & Hold Them Accountable”


This post is part of a series focused on effective development/coaching strategies to use with five different types of struggling leaders and was developed for HR professionals interested in learning more about best practices in leadership coaching. 3D Group Senior Consultant Dr. Teresa Pappas shares recommendations on how to make progress and avoid stalls in leader development.