Roger, a newly minted CEO, named Bob to be Chief Operating Officer. His rationale hinged on belief in Bob’s potential. Did Bob have potential? Yes. But he was utterly devoid of willingness to learn.

Roger thought he was helping Bob by giving him an opportunity. For a year and half, despite clear indications that Bob was failing, Roger kept saying, “I’m coaching him.” Coaching was defined as meetings, conversations, admonitions, and feedback. This is common and accepted practice but is wildly ineffective.

You can’t help someone who doesn’t want to be helped. (Click To Tweet)


Bob was too arrogant and self-important to try to improve. His solution? More time in the saddle. You’ve heard this, right? It’s dead wrong. More time doing the same thing only cements what you are already doing. Growth involves change not ossification.

Finally, the ire of the board reached a crescendo. Now they were questioning the CEOs judgment. That’s when Roger acted. Following Bob’s dismissal, a ton of disappointment and blame were directed toward him. Rightly so. Yet Roger made an error that nearly cost them both. Roger thought he could coach Bob and persisted in this belief, absent any evidence.

Telling someone they are deficient is insufficient for them to change. (Click To Tweet) 


Roger made the situation worse because he felt guilty. He had a misguided notion that “servant leaders” are responsible for the performance of their team. Rather than put responsibility where it properly lay, he heaped remorse on himself and kept trying to help Bob.

Roger’s feedback to Bob was equivocal. He was supportive in conversation and doled out pay increases and bonuses. Rewarding the behavior you don’t want will get you more of what you don’t want.

People need to know what “good” looks like. (Click To Tweet) 

Roger didn’t want to use examples of others on his team to illustrate what he wanted Roger to do. He was afraid Bob would resent his colleagues. This is ridiculous. People who are great at rapid growth and learning aren’t that immature. They want to know “what works?” Is someone, somewhere doing what I want to be doing? If so, it can be done! I want to know how. If you can help me, I’ll listen.

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