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Ask Dr Sabrina: Is this employee coachable?

Dr. Sabrina Starling, The Business Psychologist™ and author of How to Hire the Best, shares a quick hack to determine if your employee is coachable.


Hi, Dr. Sabrina Starling here, The Business Psychologist™ and author of How to Hire the Best. I just finished a coaching group call with one of my masterminds and the question came up:

“How do I know my employees are coachable? I try coaching them, but I see that after a week or two, they’re back to the same old behavior and I don’t see consistent change, so is it me? Is there something that I’m doing wrong or is it just that my employees are not coachable?”

Now in my video training, the 5 Secrets to Exceptional Employee Performance, Secret #4 is to improve your coaching skills. If you don’t feel confident as a business owner coaching your employees, definitely we want to work on improving your coaching skills, but I have been coaching small business owners now for years and one of the things that I’ve noticed is that you can have great coaching skills, but if you’re trying to coach an employee who’s not coachable, it doesn’t matter how good your coaching skills are. You won’t see a change in their performance.

So a quick shorthand way to determine if an employee is coachable is to ask if you can offer them some feedback, give them the feedback, and then see if their behavior changes after you’ve had that discussion with them. Typically what you’ll see with a coachable is the behavior will improve and you may see a little bit of fallback but generally it’s a steady upward improvement.

If someone is not coachable what you will see is that the day after the conversation, the behavior will change and it will improve but then you’ll see the slide back and that’s really when you know someone is not coachable – if you repeatedly see the sliding back and there’s not consistent, steady change after you’ve tried coaching them.

I want to give you 3 other criteria to help you determine if an employee is coachable. Criteria #1: Are they willing to take personal responsibility in the situation? If you hear a lot of finger-pointing going on and blaming others or blaming you for not giving them the tools they need to do the job, then they’re not really willing to take personal responsibility.

Criteria #2 is that they have to see the possibility of change.

Criteria #3 is that they have to be ready and willing to take action. So that part of the conversation might go something like this: “Gee, Joe, thank you so much for sharing with me how you plan to turn this around and what you’re going to do differently. Are you willing to do that going forward?” That puts the responsibility back on Joe to demonstrate to you that he’s actually making that change. It gets you out of that vicious cycle where you’re feeling like you’re constantly having to follow up with employees, and if you don’t follow up on something it doesn’t get done. We want to get the employees coming back to you and showing you that they are taking action.

If you want more tips from me on getting exceptional employee performance, I encourage you to sign up for my video training series, 5 Secrets to Exceptional Employee Performance. You can get access by texting the word “EMPLOYEES” to 44222.

 Sabrina_blog picDr. Sabrina StarlingThe Business Psychologist™ and author of How to Hire the Best specializes in transforming time-, energy- and cash-sucking small businesses into highly profitable, Great Places to Work! 

Employee  problems can be one of the biggest stumbling  blocks for any business owner.  With her background in psychology, and years of coaching small  business owners to extraordinary results, Dr. Starling knows what it takes to find, keep and get exceptional performance out of your biggest investment-your employees. Access her comprehensive video training 5 Secrets to Exceptional Employee Performance (her gift to you!) at

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What Clients Say…

I’ve known Dr. Sabrina for a few years and have worked with her a couple different times to help me with my business. I gained a lot of helpful information for my business – both in her group program as well as one-on-one coaching. She is very good at looking at the big picture and being tactical as well. One of my biggest take-away’s was getting clear on my target clientele. This information has helped me, in turn, to offer smarter and more effective career coaching for my target clients. And those clients are loving what I’m providing. I’d highly recommend working with Sabrina. She’s a wealth of knowledge and truly cares to see you and your business improve. From one happy patient, a BIG “thank you!” to you, Dr. Sabrina!

Jennifer Armitstead – Owner & Career Coach
Moving Forward Employment Solutions, Inc.