Coaching versus Discipline

As business owners and managers, there is no denying we currently find ourselves in a serious employee shortage. For those employees who remain on our team, many are feeling more stressed and stretched than ever. I hear terms such as overworked, unappreciated, and unsupported… especially if the team has one or more open positions or a heavy balance of new employees who are not yet fully trained. Many healthcare and dental practices have been forced to hire employees with no previous clinical experience at all, extending the onboarding and training process even further.  

In my recent Courageous Conversations workshop and on many occasions with my leadership coaching clients, I’ve been asked these questions:  Should we continue to have Courageous Conversations with our team members right now?  How strongly should we hold them accountable to our team agreements and standards, business values, and strategic plan initiatives and goals? Won’t this kind of pressure put us in jeopardy of losing the people we do have with the high probability of not being able to replace them at all… or even if we do, replacing them with someone even less aligned?  

Because the reality is truly challenging and the fear is real, I’ve given my answer a lot of thought. Here it is:  

I believe we should (now more than ever) have frequent and thoughtful Courageous Conversations with our people when their actions, attitudes, or results are not in alignment with the teams’ values, vision, or initiatives. Holding on to the feelings of frustration only serves to build resentment and will eventually come to light, usually in the form of a blow-up, major argument, serious reprimand, or an abrupt parting of ways. In addition, by avoiding these conversations, we communicate to the rest of our team, and to ourselves, that our vision and values only apply in fair weather, but not in tough times.  

However, in light of the current employment marketplace challenges, it is so important to know how to initiate and guide these conversations well. It is also critical to shift the frame through which we view or think about these conversations because it is a very real possibility that if the employee feels this is an old-school, disciplinary conversation, it may not sit well with them and could be the catalyst for their looking for greener, easier pastures elsewhere. Instead, recontextualize these important conversations from the making of an ultimatum to the constant, ongoing coaching of this professional to a higher level of performance and helping them to achieve their own goals as well as those of the business.  

In the coaching context, we are reminded early on in the conversation to establish what the employee goals and aspirations are both within the business as well as in relation to their overall career. With this clarity, we can, then, frame our recommendations and requests for change as a way to help them achieve their own objectives, not solely that of the practice or team.  

This more collaborative approach allows us to hand the work of the change back to them and offer our support in helping them to achieve it, rather than robbing them of the process of growth by continuing to do it for them, ignoring the gap, or making excuses.  

This week, schedule the Courageous Conversations you need to have. Work on not only your own level of skill in facilitating productive and positive conversations but also on framing them for yourself and your team member as one of many ongoing, important coaching conversations to up-level everyone’s skills and work experience.  

If you or your leaders need support and a simple framework to help guide these conversations and assure a positive outcome, reach out to us here at LionSpeak.  We can help.  

“Make sure that team members know they are working with you, not for you.”

~ John Wooden


  1. Brilliant. And SO timely! I know I have been feeling stifled and hesitant to have the courageous conversations because of the current employment climate. Thank you for this!

  2. You’re welcome, Annie! So happy that you found this week’s Stretch so helpful. Let us know if we can support you in having these conversations with your team.

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