A Coaching Mindset

Steven Cesare, Ph.D.

A business owner from Florida called me the other day to express increased frustration with his employees’ ineffective job performance.   Throughout the conversation, the business owner repeatedly stated how he is always correcting his employees’ mistakes to no avail, a seemingly interminable process that is beginning to wear him down. 

Sound familiar?

While sounding simplistic to the business owner, I suggested that he modify his mindset from being an “auditor” to becoming a “coach.”  Think about auditors in your business world (e.g., OSHA, IRS, ICE).  Auditors only target what is wrong, usually with a smug, condescending tone stroking their ego, while diminishing your confidence.  Auditors act like know-it-alls.  But they are not.

Now, think about someone who has coached you in your life (e.g., athletics, consultant, mentor).  While both auditors and coaches evaluate performance, the auditor concentrates extensively on present errors, the coach centers attention exclusively on future success.  Did you or your children learn to ride a bicycle, tie shoelaces, or operate a piece of equipment (e.g., tool, appliance, computer program) perfectly the first time you or they attempted it?

Yeah, right.  I thought I was the only one.

Maybe if you had a facilitative coach instead of a demeaning auditor, you would be better at math, driving a stick shift, or programming the DVR.  Maybe.

Coaches show us what we were doing wrong, specify (e.g., verbally, behaviorally, visually) how to improve, refine our sequential success, and eventually celebrate our achievement.  Their role is supportive, procedural, patient, ongoing, and enriching.  The auditor’s role is aversive, binary, judgmental, finite, and vanquishing.  

Make no mistake, I am not primping my Pollyanna sunglasses espousing academic idealism while being surrounded by the daunting reality of truth.  We all know that some employees are lazy; we all know that some employees will never get it; we all know that some employees are incorrigible.  


Another given:  The degree of employee success is unquestionably determined in very large part to their individual effort; that degree of success can be efficaciously underscored or perpetually undermined by the quality of coaching (e.g., frequency, tone, purpose) provided to them.  Thus, it’s about business owners, managers, and supervisors transitioning their leadership mindset from an auditor to a coach; a coach that will improve performance, the employee, and a company culture.

Now, get back to programming the DVR.  Or at least try to…

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Steve Cesare Ph.D.

has more than 25 years of Human Resources experience. Prior to joining The Harvest Group, Steve worked with Bemus Landscape, Jack in the Box, the County of San Diego, Citicorp, and NASA. Steve earned his Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Old Dominion University, and has authored 68 human resources journal articles. As a member of The Harvest Group, Steve’s areas of expertise include: staffing, legal compliance, wage and hour issues, training, and employee safety.  Read Steve's full bio.