I’ve been challenged throughout my career with many trials and tests that have resulted in learning. Today, I have the benefit of being a wise leader only because of what life has delivered my way.
One of the toughest lessons I have learned is how to identify and coach pretenders. To be honest, I don’t have a tolerance for pretenders. They take up time, take up a salary, waste production opportunities, and suck the living energy out of me.
However, as mature leaders, we must operate with more discipline than emotion. Remember, we should positively impact every person we encounter, whether they are a contributor or a pretender. So how do we coach pretenders while staying positive and eliminating the temptation to eat them alive?
Know What You’ve Got.
Leading a pretender may be God’s way of grooming your leader skills. Pretenders aren’t born; they are made over time by their experiences, just like producers and leaders. My optimistic hope is to teach and give new life experiences to them. This can be a long process, so patience is needed. The non-negotiable to this philosophy is if the team’s attitude or business suffers. If this is the case, you must sever the relationship with care.
Be Clear About The Desired Results.
Pretenders tend to overstate their performance. They talk a lot about what they do or what they are going to do. Their talk may be intentionally or unintentionally covering up insecurities. So when your pretender talks but you don’t see the walk, reinforce what results you want. Write them down, then both you and the pretender use those desired results as your scorecard for performance.
It might sound like this, “John, I really love what you are saying, and I can’t wait to see the fruit from your efforts. What action steps will you take to achieve these results? [Listen and write] It’s my job to help you be successful, so I’ll be your accountability partner. Let’s discuss the outcome of your actions in two days.” In two days you are looking for action, not more talk or excuses.
Help Them Be Humble.
When being coached, pretenders are often quick to respond, “Oh I know that,” or “Yes, I always do that.” To help with this, have your pretender give you examples of success – not just a story from another time but in relation to today. Also, help them be vulnerable by asking something like, “John, in what areas are you weak?” Do you ever feel ashamed enough to cover up for these weaknesses?” or “Have you ever overstated your abilities and wished you hadn’t?” As their coach, you are trying to break their constant need to look good and to realize it’s okay to not know it all.
Show Them How to Let Others Shine.
Pretenders like the spotlight and have no problem adjusting the light toward themselves when they want attention and pointing the light away from themselves when an error has occurred. Teach the pretender to look for the successes in others instead of in himself by having him tell a story about a teammate’s success. In turn, you will be able to recognize them for doing so.
We do pretenders a great disservice when we play along with their pretending or when we simply write them off as lost causes. If you’re leading a pretender, approach them with a coaching mindset and an honest desire to help them be better. Chances are, it will be a growth opportunity for both of you.