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The Best of CONVERGE21 (1/3)

Updated: Oct 22, 2022

Today, I would like to share with you two interesting topics from CONVERGE21

Two short excerpts:  1) The Coaching Abrasive Leaders and 2) The Importance of Coaching in Employee Engagement and Performance Management

1. Lecture: Coaching Abrasive Leaders - Dealing with Defensiveness

Speaker: Laura Crawshaw, Ph.D., BCC, The Boss Whispering Institute Founder & President

1.1 What was it about?

  • Abrasive leaders (AL) rub their coworkers the wrong way. These executives and professionals (including physicians and attorneys) who engage in interpersonally aggressive behavior (also known as workplace bullying) exact a high price in terms of both employee emotional distress and costs to the organization.

  • At the same time, employers feel helpless to intervene, especially when dealing with an abrasive leader whose technical expertise is of critical importance to the organization.

  • Executive coaches are perfectly positioned to offer a solution to workplace bullying through the specialty practice of coaching abrasive leaders.

1.2 Key observations and problems identified

Abrasive Leader: Any individual charged with managerial authority whose interpersonal behavior causes emotional distress in coworkers sufficient to disrupt organizational functioning.

1.2.1 Examples of Abrasive Behavior:
  • Shouting, Swearing, Storming out of meetings, Name-calling,

  • Ignoring/shunning, Intimidation: glaring, snorting, etc.,

  • Over-control, Sarcasm: stile humor, ...

1.2.2 What Abrasive leaders do?
  • Overreact

  • Over-control

  • Threats

  • Public humiliation

  • Condescension

1.2.3 What are Symptoms of Chronic Abrasion? Examples:
  • Continuing informal/formal complaints (“negative perceptions”) brought by employees

  • Attempts by individuals to transfer out of adepartment or avoid being transferred in

  • Increased attrition, sick leave

1.2.4 What are the Costs of Abrasive Behavior?

According to study conducted at the University of North Carolina: 

48% intentionally decreased work effort
47% intentionally decreased time at work
38% intentionally decreased the quality of their work
63% lost work time avoiding the offender
66% said their performance declined

1.2.5 What are Assumptions and Research Findings in case of Abrasive Leaders:


Research Findings

Fully aware of nature and impact of abrasive behaviors

Little or no awareness of nature and impact of abrasive behaviors – they’re clueless

Intent: malevolent (to harm)

Intent: they are defending against the threat of being perceived to be incompetent - they’re afraid

Means: dominate (exert control) through aggression/intimidation

Means: dominate (exert control) through aggression / intimidation

Behavior isintractable: they cannot change

​Behavior is coachable: they can change

1.2.6 So what AL do?

See a problem - > Diagnose incompetence (“stupid”, “lazy”) -> Attack perceived incompetence (Dominate through intimidating “threat displays”)

What Causes Abrasive (Defensive) Behavior?

  • Anxiety in response to perceived threat: They feel threatened

  • (TAD) THREAT => ANXIETY => DEFENSE (Fight / Flight response)

1.2.7 What AL are they afraid of? What is the threat for AL?
  • Being perceived to be: INCOMPETENT --> They are INSECURE

  • They defend against threats to their survival, whether in the wild or the workplace, with aggression.

1.2.8 Understanding Abrasive Behavior:
  • Abrasive behavior is defensive behavior.

  • You are now equipped to analyze abrasive behavior:

    • fight mode: what threat is he/she “fighting” (defending against)?

    • flight mode: what threat is he/she “fleeing” (defending against)?

1.2.9 Coaching focus:
Observe fight or flight behaviors at work and analyze the underlying threat(s)

Why Leadership Fails to Intervene?

What Employers Need to Do:

Afraid, Hopeless & Helpless

  • Fear of beingh armed or doing harm

  • Failure of past intervention efforts

    • Ineffective management training

    • Blocked by abrasive leader’s denial of behaviors

  • Focus on evidence vs. negative perceptions

  • Belief that people can’t change

  • Belief that sole option to end work place bullying is termination


  • Set limits for further negative perceptions: “This cannot go on.”; “We cannot have people feeling that they are treated disrespectfully.”; “These negative perceptions cannot continue.”

  • Set consequences for further negative perceptions: “If this continues, we will have to .....(state consequence).”

  • Offer help through specialized coaching: “We want to offer you confidential help to turn this around.”

1.2.10 Specialized Coaching for AL
  • Requires employer willingness to intervene (set limits & consequences for further unacceptable conduct)

  • Averages 8-10 sessions

  • Demonstrable change by 3rd session

  • 82% achieve acceptable level of conduct

  • New research shows that coaching clients retain insight and emotional management ability

1.2.11 The Coaching Process
  • Client invites Coworkers to be interviewed (Coach is engaged as co-researcher to research negative perceptions)

  • Anonymized, themed feedback provided to Client only

  • T-A-D Dynamic introduced to develop empathic accuracy (insight)

  • Insight-based management strategies collaboratively developed

  • 2nd round of coworker interviews (“pulse check”) to gauge progress/further work

  • Coaching concludes

1.2.12 Advantages of Intervention:

Everyone Wins

  • Employee suffering ends

  • Employees are heartened that formerly abrasive leader cared enough to work to change

  • Employees regard employer positively for intervening

  • Formerly abrasive leader is grateful for employer’s willingness to invest in him/her and offer “second chance” through coaching

  • Employer reduces potential for litigation, attrition, anti-management sentiment

  • Employer retains leader’s technical expertise

What if the abrasive leader can’t change and must be terminated?

  • Employee suffering ends

  • Employees regard employer positively for intervening

  • Employer reduces potential for litigation because they can demonstrate they intervened.

  • Employer has peace of mind of knowing that they did everything in their power to remedy the situation

1.3 Takeaways

  • There exists coaching model that incorporates action research and concepts derived from evolutionary psychology, emotional intelligence theory and the research of Laura A. Crawshaw, Ph.D.

  • Have insight into why bosses bully,

  • Know-how to distinguish an AL from other types

  • We have specific techniques to overcome characteristic client defensiveness, developed awareness.

  • These techniques could help abrasive leaders relinquish their destructive management styles in favor of interpersonally-productive strategies.

More information: Taming the Abrasive Manager : How to End Unnecessary Roughness in the Workplace (The Jossey-Bass Management Series) Hardcover – September 28, 2007

by Laura Crawshaw (Author)


2. Lecture: The Importance of Coaching in Employee Engagement and Performance Management

Speaker: Kevin Campbell, ACC, Lifted Leadership, LLC, People Scientist and Executive Coach

2.1 What was it about?

  • In lecture was explained what is employee engagement (EE) and performance management (PM). Why they are critical to business success.

  • We identified the ways most organizations structure EE and PM programs. The impact of coaching on the success of PM and EE was clarified.

  • Speaker presented practical tools for fostering coaching-based performance and engagement conversations.

2.2 Key observations and problems identified

2.2.1 What is Employee Engagement & Performance Management?
  • EE = Emotional Commitment + Discretionary Effort + Psychological Connection

  • PM = Clarify Expectations + Foster Growth + Measure and Review Results

2.2.2 Why Does EE Matter to Businesses?

17% higher productivity
20% higher sales
70% fewer safety incidents
24%-59% lower turnover Why Should EE Matter to Coaches?

89% Companies Measuring EE in 2020
81% Plan to Focus More on Employee Experience in 2021

2.2.3 Why Does PM Matter to Businesses?

1.3Xs more likely to meet their financial targets
3Xs more likely to effectively manage change
3.2Xs more likely to encourage risk taking
More than 2Xs as likely to innovate Why Should PM Matter to Coaches?

92% Companies with PM in 2020
67% Companies that Plan to Make Changes in the Next Two Years

2.2.4 Approaches

​Standard Approach

The Unfortunate Standard Results

  • ​Initiate an employee engagement program led by HR

  • Create a survey-driven program to measure employee engagement

  • Leaders take action with company-wide initiatives and process changes

  • Gather feedback from employees for the purpose of understanding

  • 👎 Employee engagement is seen as an “HR thing”

  • 👎 The survey becomes the focal point of the program, rather than a tool to measure employee engagement

  • 👎 Organization-wide changes take 6-12 months to take action on seemingly simple surveys

  • 👎 Lack of quick action leads to a loss of credibility and engagement

Even Though 89% of Companies Measure Engagement Only 7% are Very Good at Acting on Feedback

Standard Approach

​The Unfortunate Standard Results

  • ​80% of PM programs include discussions of work goals

  • 71% of organizations create performance reviews to help employees grow

  • 60% of organizations create PM programs to boost communication

  • ​But only 32% say their managers are good at helping employees set goals

  • But only about 33% say their PM program results in employee development or improved performance

  • But only 26% say their managers are good at having conversations about performance

Even Though 92% of Companies Use Performance Management Only 9% are Meeting their Goals

2.2.5 The problem with most employee engagement and performance management

The problem with most employee engagement and performance management programs is an overemphasis on measurement over improvement and development.

  • The solution is coaching

Forward Thinking Organizations are Closing the Measurement to Improvement Gap By:

  • Partnering with external coaches skilled in engagement and performance

  • Creating teams of internal performance and engagement coaches

  • Upskilling managers and leaders to take more of a coach-like approach with their teams

2.2.6 Engagement Coaching is as Easy as A-B-C and 1-2-3
  • Action Oriented = Think Big, Act Small + Foster Action Mindsets

  • Business Relevant

    • Begin With Business (Business Goal -> Engagement Focus Area -> Relevant Action)

  • Conversation Based

    • Foster Conversation

      • Focus Area: Recognition, L&D, Alignment

      • Conversation Starters: What team achievement do we have to celebrate?, What are some ways we can develop as team?, What is expected of us a team?

  • One Focus Area

  • Two Relevant Actions

  • 3x3 Communication

2.2.7 Making Performance Conversations Flow
  • Performance Reviews can be Anxiety Producing

  • Flow is the Antidote to Anxiety Fostering Flow Enables Performance

Fostering Flow

  • Flow Conditions: Clear and Unambiguous Goals, Clear Feedback, Balance Between Challenge and Skills,

  • Performance Objectives: Clarify Expectations, Measure and Review Results, Foster Growth

2.3 Takeaways

  • The problem with many employee engagement and performance management programs is an overemphasis on measurement over improvement and development.

    • The solution to this problem is coaching.

  • Forward-thinking organizations are bridging the measurement to improvement gap by:

    • Using external performance and engagement coaches

    • Creating internal performance and engagement coaches

    • Equipping leaders to take a coach-like approach toward their teams

  • You can enhance engagement and performance using two easy to understand guides:

    • Employee Engagement is as easy as A-B-C 1-2-3

    • Performance Conversations that F.L.O.W

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