Leaders know that some issues are more difficult to talk about with employees than others. Coaching an employee to be punctual is much easier than helping them create more positive attitudes towards the culture and race of your employees overseas.

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As we have implemented coaching programs around the world, we developed a list of the 10 Most Common Leadership Coaching Issues and ranked them from hardest to easiest to approach. The difficulty of the situation is based on the potential defensiveness or resistance that an individual may have regarding the issue. We group these 10 issues into four areas that we call “Domains of Leadership Effectiveness.” These include a person’s Expertise, Performance, Interpersonal Skills, and Disposition. This provides us a framework for addressing each issue with a specific approach.

Expertise (least difficult)

Coaching situations involving a person’s knowledge, capabilities, and job skills (items 7-10) are the easiest to address and resolve. Corrective action is used for policy or legal violations while coaching on job skills and knowledge focuses on identifying opportunities to learn and then following up to make sure progress is being made. Because issues in the expertise domains are clearly defined and formalized (i.e. Policies and Procedures), there is less chance of a defensive reaction on the part of the employee.


We put item 6 in a group by itself since there can be many reasons why a person is not performing to expectations. The approach here is to clearly identify the problem, set specific goals, and to provide accountability and follow-up. Sometimes the performance problem is tied to one of the other domains and those issues need to be addressed first before creating goals. Leaders that coach on issues within the performance domain go beyond simply creating awareness of a problem and approach the conversation with “What can I do to help you improve.”

Interpersonal Skills

Relationship Issues and Personal Appearance (4 & 5) fall into this category. We use a 360 degree feedback assessment to create self-awareness and greater understanding about the person’s impact on others. The approach is to find small behavior changes that can be leveraged to create big differences in the way the leader relates with co-workers.

Disposition (most difficult)

Values/Beliefs, Personal Characteristics, and Attitude (1-3) are the most difficult areas to help a person change. These things form the foundation of an individual’s personality and are developed since childhood. This is where you might find prejudice or bias in a leader’s beliefs, values that don’t match those of the organization, or a grumpy attitude that is bringing down the team. The approach here is to help the individual decide if there is a need to change and why it would benefit them personally. Sometimes a leader has to decide if they are a good fit with their current job or organization. Given the personal nature of the issues within the disposition domain of coaching, there is greater potential of defensiveness and resistance.

Do you agree with our list? Would you re-arrange any items or add some others? Do you have any other approaches that you use to address leadership coaching issues?

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