One of the most important parts of a leader’s role is to coach those they lead. While few would disagree with that statement, many aren’t doing as much coaching as they should. That fact itself should concern organizations. But it isn’t the only problem. Do you (and your leaders) know if you are coaching the wrong people?

The Three Types of People

Leaders with more than a couple of direct reports likely have teammates at different levels of performance and development. We can safely generalize that all team members fall into one of three performance groups.

  • The Rockstars. These people are performing at or above the level that is expected of them. We would all like to have more of these people on our teams.
  • The Solid Performers. These people are meeting the minimum performance and behavior expectations all the time. While they could grow within their role, there are no real challenges with them.
  • The Developers. These people are not meeting the performance expectations. You see a gap between what they are doing and what you need from them.

Which of these groups receive the most coaching from you or your leaders?

Is that the best answer?

In a perfect world, leaders are giving attention, time, and effort to coach everyone on their team. But often, outside demands and pressures require us to prioritize our coaching efforts.

The question is: Are you prioritizing in the best possible way?

Questions to Consider

I don’t know if you or your leaders are coaching the wrong people. What I know is that human nature and normal inclination might not best serve us here.

“Dana the Developer” shows promise and desire to reach performance expectations. So time spent coaching her will be a good use of time. But if we spend all our available time on the developers, what about our rockstars?

“Renee the Rockstar” isn’t a problem, she’s a joy – and you are glad she is on your team. But is she getting any of your time and attention? Do you know what her goals are and how you can help her continue to grow? Perhaps most importantly, if you don’t give her encouragement and coaching, might she start looking elsewhere?

“Sam the Solid Performer” doesn’t get our attention because, well, he’s solid. But what if we don’t encourage him and help him see a desired future? Might he stagnate or lose some of his internal motivation?

Yes, you need to get your Developers up to speed to meet expectations. But if all your time is spent there, what happens to the Rockstars and Solid Performers?

Not to mention, you risk falling into a Fix It trap with your Developers. You can quickly find yourself focusing on fixing what’s going wrong rather than nurturing what’s going well. If your focus is on fixing rather than growing, will you have the culture you want to foster?

You Know Your Situation Best

Since I am not observing you or the leaders in your organization, I can’t know your situation. I can only surmise. That’s why I asked questions for you to consider. Determining if you are spending the right time in the right places is a valuable exercise that benefits everyone.

You will get the most from this article if you swap out your team member’s names for Renee, Sam, and Dana. Make this less academic and more personal. Then you will have your answer to whether you are coaching the wrong people.

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Kevin Eikenberry is a recognized world expert on leadership development and learning and is the Chief Potential Officer of The Kevin Eikenberry Group ( He has spent nearly 30 years helping organizations across North America, and leaders from around the world, on leadership, learning, teams and teamwork, communication and more.
Twice he has been named by as one of the top 100 Leadership and Management Experts in the World and has been included in many other similar lists.

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