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Homework answers / question archive / Module 4 - Background SPECIAL CASES IN COACHING All articles on the home page, this page and the case/SLP page are required unless otherwise noted

Module 4 - Background SPECIAL CASES IN COACHING All articles on the home page, this page and the case/SLP page are required unless otherwise noted


Module 4 - Background


All articles on the home page, this page and the case/SLP page are required unless otherwise noted.

Coaching Top Performers

Up until now, our focus has been on coaching employees to improve performance.  But with top performers, the goal is not to improve performance but to improve interpersonal skills and relationships.  Another goal is to help the top performer understand that established rules and procedures are important and apply also to him.

Interpersonal skills

Top performers tend to be highly driven and may resist working with others who they perceive as being less capable and less hard working.  They may avoid working on teams because they feel the others will “drag them down”.  Since organizations today rely heavily on interdisciplinary and cross-functional teams to get work done, top performers are going to have to be coached to be able to work effectively in teams.

In team situations, top performers can sometimes be difficult to deal with in several ways:

•they like to take over

 •they won't cooperate

 •they display their anger and frustration

 •they try to intimidate others who won't agree with them

 •they won't compromise

 •they speak bluntly

 •they're insensitive to the feelings of others, and

 •they act impatiently with those who seem to work or talk slowly

Obviously behaviors such as these are likely to lead to development of dysfunctional team dynamics such as interpersonal conflict, malicious talk and gossip about others, resentments and alienation.

Inattentiveness to rules and details

Top performers focus their attention on achieving outcomes and making progress. They can view details like filling out reports as mundane bureaucratic tasks that slow them down.  Top performers tend to make decisions based on intelligence, intuition, and experience.  As such they can overlook details. They may feel constrained by organizational procedures and protocol. It the most extreme cases this can lead top performers to circumvent rules they perceive as barriers.  These ‘barriers” can sometimes have serious regulatory implications.

If behavioral problems such as these go uncorrected, it can have negative effects on the team, the organization, and the manager who has to deal with the fall-out. The employee himself can unknowingly sabotage his own reputation and chances for advancement

Using DISC to Coach Top Performers

In coaching top performers, the first objective is to help them see their behavior patterns and the effects they have on others and the success of the project.  Then you help them to modify their behaviors, so that the team can be more effective.

The DISC instrument (which stands for dominance, influence, steadiness, and compliance) has been developed for just this purpose.  There are four stages or steps to the DISC approach:

  • Complete the DISC assessment
  • Discuss the results with a coach
  • Develop an action plan
  • Evaluate progress

Here are the basics of the DISC assessments: 

Fallon, J. (2012) DISC Assessment. Retrieved from

The DISC behavior styles questionnaire is used to identify what behavioral style an individual uses most. The person fills out the questionnaire and the information is plotted on the behavioral styles map. The information gathered from the questionnaire is displayed on the DISC behavior styles map along dotted lines.  Take an abbreviated version of the DISC assessment and plot your own profile on the styles map (link below).  What does this profile tell you about your personality and how you approach issues at work? (Don’t feel that you need to purchase more complex assessments advertised on this site.  The free one is enough to give you an idea of how DISC works.)

DISC Personality Testing (n.d.) Retrieved from

While people may have a dominant style, most have a different blend of all four styles, and can learn to adapt their particular profile to achieve a more balanced style.  Research has shown that most top performers primarily use the dominance behavioral style. This is where coaching makes a difference.  The coach can help the top performer learn to adopt elements of the influence, steadiness and compliance styles, which will enable them to work more effectively with other employees.

Read the following from the Trident library:

de Haan, E., & Nieß, C. (2011). Change through executive coaching. Training Journal, , 66-70.

There are four steps in discussing the assessment results. The first step is to ask the top performer to look at the completed DISC behavior styles map and identify the core style. Then you show the strengths and weaknesses associated with the person's core style. During the third step, you present specific feedback. And finally, you check for understanding.

Specifically, the coach might look at the top performer’s profile and help the coachee to see the following plusses and minuses of each particular style:

Behavioral Style Strengths and Weaknesses:  Use this as reminder of the strengths and weaknesses associated with each behavioral style.


Employees who use the dominance behavioral style have strengths such as being determined, driven, and highly motivated. They lead by example.

Weaknesses associated with the dominance behavioral style include impatience, not listening, and lack of tact. Top performers who use this style can sometimes be insensitive to their colleagues' feelings.


Users of the influence style are excellent at brainstorming and developing innovative solutions. They are willing to listen to what others have to say and can motivate their colleagues.

People who use the influence behavioral style often don't pay enough attention to detail. They can be careless and sometimes fail to follow through.


People who use the steadiness style are usually good listeners and work well in team situations.

Some weaknesses associated with users of the steadiness behavioral style include a tendency to be oversensitive to criticism and being indecisive. Users of this style don't hit the ground running. They are slow to begin tasks.


Users of the compliance style have many strengths, including planning capabilities and problem-solving skills.

The weaknesses associated with users of the compliance behavioral style are that they can sometimes be too critical and rule-focused.

One of the characteristics of top performers is that most are not good listeners. This is why the coach has to make sure the feedback has been heard and is not ignored. It is critical that the top performer internalizes what the DISC assessment reveals - or behavioral change will not occur. Top performers must be able to see how their behavior style has both benefits and detriments and how by broadening their behavioral repertoire they can become even more effective.

To confirm the top performer's understanding of your feedback, you should use open-ended questions that requires the coachee to rephrase what you've said, and to demonstrate understanding. For example, you could ask the coachee , "How would you explain what would happen if you tried to use the influence style in this situation - using your own words?" Avoid asking a yes-no question like, "Do you understand what I'm saying?"  You are trying to create “Ah ha!” moments where the top performer sees the benefit of changing her behavior and commits to making that change.

Developing the Action Plan

As with all coaching sessions, the counseling is of no use unless the coachee takes ownership and develops a plan to put his learning into action.  Keep in mind that the purpose of coaching top performers is to help them become more effective team members. The action plan needs to hone in on the previous steps in the coaching process come up with a plan to connect better with colleagues. The action plan will help them put their DISC knowledge to use.

There are three steps for developing this specific type of action plan:

  1. Develop a communication strategy that allows the person to interact with other team members in their behavioral style preferences. (Have the coachee identify the styles of the other team members.  You may need to give examples to get the top performer out of his own frame of reference. Then let him come up with his own solutions for how to communicate with the other members.)
  2. Practice communicating with others in their own behavioral style preferences. Have him keep a list of two or three specific skills that he needs to work on (e.g. “Need to be more patient”, “Need to be less sarcastic”.
  3. Keep a progress log to discuss at the next coaching session. The coachee needs to document successes and failures. This helps you both evaluate progress. Set a date for your next coaching session and keep going until the behavioral changes are well established.

Coaching difficult or problem employees

Begin this section by reading this short article from the Trident Library:

Cooling the heat around problem employees. (2012, May 06). Sunday Business Post Retrieved from 

While working with difficult employees can be one of the most frustrating and thankless jobs a leader ever encounters, it is good to know that there are ways of coaching these individuals.   Here are some examples of what we mean by “Difficult Employees”:

Examples of “difficult” behaviors

  • Gossiping about other employees and/or spreading negative rumors.
  • Taking credit for or undermining others’ achievements.
  • Constantly pointing out the negative in any situation or change.
  • Dragging their heels or sabotaging new initiatives or projects.
  • Showing up late or leaving early for work or meetings.
  • Disrespecting managers and colleagues through comments or actions.
  • Doing a poor job on their assigned projects (and, often, blaming others).
  • Picking fights with co-workers.
  • Disregarding feedback, evaluations, or requests from managers and co-workers.

The following article offers a 7 step coaching model that proposes to return these employees to productive workers, not by punishing them, but rather by motivating them to improve their performance. A “how-to discussion” on each of the 7 steps of this coaching model follows:   

Tanner, R. (n.d.) Motivation – 7 steps for coaching difficult employees, Management is a Journey.  Retrieved from

This article does not just re-iterate the coaching steps, but adds specific behaviors and tactics that address the problem employee: 

Andersen, E. (2013) 9 ways to deal with difficult employees.  Forbes. Retrieved from

The following article specifies steps to take before meeting with the employee, how to structure and conduct the coaching session, proposes a corrective feedback model, and strategies for responding to negative employee reactions (including anger and crying)

Preparing for Difficult Coaching Situations (n.d.) Retrieved from

Of course some employees cannot be saved.  Their offenses are so grievous that immediate termination is called for:

Rudy, L.J. (2014) The Strategic Guide to Managing Difficult Employees.  Retrieved from

Really Difficult Employees Who Can Benefit From (Ongoing) Coaching

Anyone who has been in a leadership position has had to deal with seemingly impossible employees.  The following text is the best description I have seen and is quoted from:

Four Types of Difficult Employees and How to Manage Them (2014) Retrieved from

Read the whole article for tips in how to manage them, (though what you now know about coaching will be far more effective than these tips).

The Perennial Pessimist: How to spot a Perennial Pessimist? This person is the one who will put a damper on every endeavor through their perpetual negativity. While it is good to have a devil’s advocate when brainstorming and bouncing ideas, a perennial pessimist will take a negative approach not for the benefit of idea development but just because they are generally uncooperative. Dig deep and you may find reasons for their inertia are that they are lazy or burnt out or very risk-averse and change-averse or simply severely lacking in the self-confidence needed to embark on new ventures. Still, they pose a roadblock to the company’s growth and productivity and their negativity can be contagious if not addressed.

The Know-it-all: According to’s ‘Management Challenges in the MENA’ poll 37.2% of managers believe that mid-career employees are the hardest to manage. With a large influx of Gen-Y workforce, non-traditional ways of thinking and problem solving are the norm of the day. Interestingly the same poll also shows that 34.4% of managers believe that those at entry level are harder to manage. The Know-it-all is the person who is difficult to convince because they hold rigid views that are resistant to change possibly because they have been doing the job for a while or maybe because they have the inflated confidence and self-assurance of freshly graduated youth. This brand of difficult employee is characterized by being arrogant, and having a perpetually superior attitude. Their belief that they can do no wrong makes them very stubborn and poorly receptive to constructive criticism. Managing an employee with such qualities is difficult because it’s hard to get a Know-it-all employee to commit to a new idea or project or change their ways.

The Passive Aggressive: The Passive-Aggressive employee may not seem as overtly difficult as the other ‘types’ but they are no less toxic for a workplace. The Passive Aggressive employee is meek, submissive and avoids confrontation. They have a problem saying ‘no’ which makes them take up more projects/tasks than they can handle, ultimately jeopardizing the deliverables and project timelines.

The Hostile Aggressive The Hostile Aggressive type is the most overtly difficult type of employee. It’s easy to spot them, they are openly violent, pushy, abusive and generally get the team moral down.

If you find you have to coach one of these types – we wish you luck! 


Module 4 - Case


Assignment Overview

Closure and Review


The purpose of the Case Assignment is to create a “Live Case” by experiencing the process of coaching.  Because this case is designed around experiential learning, we can go beyond the conceptual knowledge covered in the reading materials to actual skills building.  This requires putting what you are learning into immediate practice.

In this fourth module, you will be working with your coachee to close the coaching session and determine the next phase of your relationship.  Will you terminate the relationship or move on to a new coaching experience?  A part of this process is soliciting feedback from your coachee as to how successful the coaching sessions were.

  • What did the coachee learn?
  • How will the coachee deal with people and situations differently?
  • What priorities have been set and what still needs to be accomplished?

One outcome of this session is to come to a mutual decision of whether to terminate the coaching relationship or continue to work together on a new coaching issue.  Drawing on the background reading for this and the previous modules, you will plan and carry out a coaching session that involves stage W of the GROW model.

There is a comprehensive explanation of the GROW model on the background page for Module 2. Here is a link to a shorter synopsis for review:

The GROW model:  A simple process for coaching and mentoring.  (2014)  Retrieved from

The structure of the Live Case NOTE:  This module also includes an extra activity to be completed by the coachee and submitted as an appendix to your usual paper.

Each module will follow this cycle:  Plan, execute, report.

  • Before the coaching session, write up a plan using course readings or additional research as a resource (1-2 pages).
  • Then meet with the coachee and use your plan as a guide for the session.
  • The bulk of the report is on how it went: successes and failures.  What would you do differently next time?  (3 to 5 pages).




What are your goals for the session?

What actions do you plan?

How will you know if you are successful? (1-2 pages).

Meet with coachee (45-50 minutes). 

Report on the session.

Provide a narrative descriptive summary of the conversation as it occurred (1 or 2 paragraphs).

How do you feel the session went?

Analyze the process and outcomes of your coaching.

What new knowledge did you gain?

What would you do differently next time?

Case Assignment

Read about conducting wrap-up sessions at the following site:

One Powerful way to Wrap Up a Coaching Session (2014) The Coaching Tools Company.  Retrieved from 

Click on this copy of the coachee feedback assessment form.   You can use this form in one of two ways:

  • You may have your coachee fill this out as a “homework” assignment prior to your meeting, or
  • You can use the assessment form to structure your feedback session by typing your coachee’s answers as you hold your wrap-up session.  In this last case, it is a good idea to email the finished completed form to the coachee so he can have a reminder of what was accomplished.
  • Either way, be sure to include the feedback form as an attachment to your paper.

Conduct your final coaching session as described above and write it up as detailed in the keys to the assignment and the assignment expectations.

Keys to the Assignment

  1. After reading the background materials for this module and doing additional research if needed, prepare your pre-coaching plan for a final 45- to 50-minute session:
    • What are your goals for this session? How will you know if you are successful?
    • What skills will you use?
    • How will you go about doing this?
    • What questions will you ask?
  2. Conduct your coaching session (45 to 50 minutes).
  3. Write up your post-coaching reflection.
    • Report the facts of the coaching session.
    • What went well and what did not?
    • What did you learn about coaching from this session?
    • What would you do differently next time?

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