The Story of Joe…

Moving Employees From Mediocre to Outstanding using the iLEAD principle.

Joe*  was the guy on my team who stood out by being defiant on my first day.  Although we addressed that problem and he apologized, he continued to be inconsistent in his behavior and results.

He came to work every day dressed in the same gray hoodie. He looked like he had just rolled out of bed. His hair was wild, his clothes were wrinkled, and he just generally looked unkempt.  He was extraordinarily smart.  He had innovative ideas.  But his sharp wit, lack of consistency, his image, and his general attitude contributed to folks viewing him and his ideas as laughable.  He wasn’t taken seriously.  My Sales Managers viewed him as a “thorn in their side.”

One day I invited Joe into my office.

See The Best In Them

“Joe, I really appreciate your perspective. You see things others don’t see and that is so valuable to our team.  To reach our big goals, we need these kinds of ideas. I’ve noticed that people don’t seem to hear your ideas, or they just dismiss them.  Why do you think that is?”


Joe responded he thought he was viewed as more of the class clown.  And because of that perspective, no one took him seriously.  I couldn’t agree more.

Connect to their why.

So, I asked him,  “Joe, what is your dream? What gets you up and to work every day?”

Well, you could have knocked me off the chair when Joe, the most troubled employee on our floor answered, “You know Jean, I’d really like to be a sales manager one day.”

Now you might be tempted to preach here.  Or to give him a list of all the things he’s doing wrong.  But we want to lead… we want to inspire Joe to be better.  So instead, we encourage.

“Joe, you have everything you need to be a good sales manager. You know how to get results when you apply yourself.  You are smart, you are innovative.  I can see this as a good path for you and I’d like to help you get there.”


“May I give you some coaching?”  By asking permission before you start coaching, two things happen:

1) You change the way they are listening. Often when receiving feedback, we are listening to defend. When you ask permission to give someone coaching, they are now listening for information. You have just empowered your employee  versus “telling them what they are doing wrong.”

2) The employee knows they are receiving coaching. How many employee surveys have you read where the employees say they don’t receive coaching and you know you are coaching every day!  We have to tell them, so they know they are getting it!

Deliver Clear Expectations

“To be promoted to a sales manager, you have to first be a leader of your peers.  You just shared with me that you are perceived as the class clown. Are people going to follow the class clown?  Can the class clown be a leader?”  Joe agrees that the class clown is the opposite of a leader.

I would encourage you to think about what part of that reputation you own.  What can you do differently to be viewed as a leader?  If you are willing to put in the work, I am willing to help you reach your goal.

Joe is shocked.  He didn’t expect this when he walked into my office. He isn’t sure he can really believe it, so he asks me.  Do you really believe I could be a manager?  I assured him that I only speak the truth and if I didn’t believe it, I wouldn’t say it. I also told him that I would help him reach his goal after he demonstrated (with consistency, because that was one of his issues) that he was willing to make changes and put in the work.

What I Didn’t Do

I didn’t tell Joe what he was doing wrong. I didn’t tell Joe what to do. I did empower Joe to be accountable for his own reputation, for his own success.  And he figured it out.

The very next Monday morning, Joe came into work in a button-down shirt.  He never wore his hoodie to work again. He got a haircut, that instead of looking wild and unkempt, looked polished and professional. He upped his game.

Everyone was astounded at the seemingly overnight change.  At first, they laughed and teased him. He kept at it.  Joe made a decision to be the best version of himself.  And he never looked back.

Today, Joe is a senior vice-president of a sales team.  When you read LinkedIn reviews, people say he is a positive person, respected by his peers and team members. He is a mentor. He is a top performer.  Joe is a respected and successful sales leader.

The right coaching, using the iLEAD principle helped Joe go from being a mediocre employee to an outstanding employee.

iLEAD- Inspire| Listen | Empower | Appreciate | Deliver Clear Expectations

* This is a true story. Joe’s name has been changed to respect his privacy.


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