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Coaching for Change: Developing Arrogant Employees

Confidence is a key ingredient to the success of a salesperson. When they walk into a room, you want your people to project a presence that suggests they know what they are doing. Most of us will even accept what we call a hint of cockiness. It can fuel competition and keep confidence up when calls aren’t being returned.

But what happens when an employee’s self-confidence greatly exceeds their performance ability?

Left unchecked, arrogant behavior can be detrimental to both team dynamics and the bottom line. On the other hand, telling your employee flat out that they have an inflated ego can impact confidence and ultimately, make performance worse.

The best case scenario is one where you supply your employee with enough information for them to recognize and correct their own shortcomings through developmental coaching. Here’s what works for us:

Set up an extended coaching session (or two or three). You can’t expect a dramatic behavior shift from a 10 minute exchange at the end of your weekly numbers meeting. Plan for more time than you think you’ll need so that you can have a rich, thoughtful discussion without being cut off prematurely. Better yet, plan a series of sessions.

Start off with praise. You always want to start coaching meetings on a positive note. Spend significant time reviewing the person’s strengths, reinforcing what they do well backed by specific examples. Explain the impact of these positive behaviors on the company and the team. Try to engage them in conversation and get them excited about their development.

Make a smooth feedback transition. A good feedback transition will help you set the stage for the “areas to improve” part of the discussion without losing positive momentum. It should say “Yes, you’re doing great – and here’s how you can do even better:

So Frank, there are many things you are doing well that contribute to your solid performance. As your manager, it’s my job to help you reach the next level. And with that in mind, I would like to discuss a few ideas for how you can improve.”

Give forward-thinking developmental feedback. To avoid giving the employee an opportunity to become defensive and argue over details of past transgressions, position your constructive feedback as behaviors you would like to see from the employee in the future. Be specific. Paint a picture of what the behaviors would look like in action. Discuss the potential benefits of these changes to the employee.

Be careful not to overload; two opportunities for improvement are adequate, particularly if you conduct these sessions regularly. Again, involve them in the conversation and encourage them to express how they feel.

Developmental conversations with arrogant employees can be hard, but making an effort to coach–not criticize–can have a huge payoff for you, your employee and your organization as a whole.

Do you have any other tried-and-true practices for developing overconfident employees?

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