Ferne Kotlyar

My Employees Are Incompetent

If you’re reading this, you’re likely a hardworking leader who does great work and has a great work ethic. You’ve risen through the ranks by managing effectively, coaching employees and learning how to become a strong leader. Despite your success, however, you’re running into a roadblock: the new set of employees you’re managing are entirely incompetent. No matter how hard you push them, they don’t seem to be able to perform the tasks required to move your business forward. 

In response, you retreat to your lone-wolf state. In order to keep things afloat, you take up more work, bear additional responsibilities and generally pick up slack around the office. This is natural to you. It’s how you got to be a leader in the first place. And while it works — you’re able to effectively cover for your employees — it’s starting to run you ragged. You’re getting angry and frustrated, and you’re not managing as effectively.  

Sound familiar? If you’re currently in this tough leadership predicament, don’t worry. There are ways to work with incompetent employees to improve their skills, but they require mindfulness, inspiration and creativity. Keep reading to learn how to break the “incompetent employee cycle” and move toward a workplace culture that’s productive and efficient. 

What are incompetent employees?

What does an incompetent employee situation look like? Here’s one example. Let’s say you’re managing a group of employees who just don’t take initiative, and no amount of strong-arming seems to be solving the problem. They’re failing at their day-to-day responsibilities, and they seem disengaged. In response, you’re pushing the “employee bus” down the road instead of starting the engine and letting the employees drive themselves. Whether that’s because of their inability to drive the bus or your inability to let go, you’re not getting anywhere.   

In the end, you end up feeling stuck and upset. You thought that your leadership position would allow you to make an even greater impact at the company. But in the end, you’re actually making less of an impact than you did in your previous position, because the work isn’t getting done. 

Signs of incompetent employees

In order to understand how and why your employees are behaving incompetently, you have to really dig deep and look at their beliefs. How are these employees thinking? What do they believe to be true? What makes it hard for them to engage in meaningful tasks? And what’s really getting in the way of their success?

An incompetent employee usually holds a series of beliefs that make managing them difficult. If an employee has the fundamental belief that they don’t have the intelligence or skillset to achieve their goals, chances are they’re not going to try very hard at that task. Think about it: if you’re not good at technical problems, and something goes wrong with your computer, do you try to fix it yourself? Or do you head over to the IT help desk and ask one of your IT workers to look into it for you?

This is how most incompetent employees think about the way that they work. They hold sets of beliefs — conscious or unconscious — that make them less inclined to continuously improve themselves, look for new opportunities, and help the company succeed. 

How to deal with incompetent employees

When it comes to incompetent employees, some managers throw up their hands and proceed to complain about their performance before taking disciplinary measures. Unfortunately, that doesn’t actually solve the problem. In fact, it makes it worse: by getting frustrated with employees and threatening your team to perform better, they’ll become increasingly discouraged and uninspired — until they either quit or get fired. 

So, if you really want to be a great leader and help your team perform, it’s not enough to simply tell your team what to do. When managing, it’s important for you to take note of and understand how your employees think. You’ll need to help them think in ways that allow them to reach their goals as well as yours. So, what does that really mean for you as a leader?

At the end of the day, in order to be a good leader, you need to work with a great coach. 

Coaching employees

How do you start coaching employees? It starts by being coached yourself. By engaging with a coaching program that allows you to reexamine your own conscious and unconscious beliefs, you’ll be better prepared to understand how to work with difficult employees. In fact, after receiving coaching, you might not even find your employees “difficult” at all. You’ll start asking important questions that get at the root of their behaviors. 

Because that’s what struggling to perform usually revolves around. It’s not usually related to skill, talent or experience. In truth, it’s almost always related to employee beliefs that impact their behaviors. Once you start contemplating what some of the beliefs your employees hold that prevent them from performing consistently and accurately, you’ll be on the right track to inspiring your workers to succeed. 

But in order to ask the right questions and uncover those deeper employee beliefs, you’ll need to be guided by your own personal coach. After all, how can you succeed at coaching employees if you haven’t gone through the coaching process yourself?

What is the process for coaching employees?

Here’s an exercise you can perform with your workers once you’ve gone through coaching: after identifying an employee belief that’s not serving them, question them directly. Ask them “is this what you believe?” And if they say yes, ask “does this belief allow you to reach your goal with ease?” In most cases, they’ll say no. In those instances, ask them if there are other possibilities within reach. Could they believe something else that might help them reach their goal with greater ease?

What you’re doing is diminishing the impact of a strong negative belief and replacing it with a strong positive belief that serves your employees better. That, in turn, will lead to greater efficiency and competence.

That’s just one way to approach incompetent employees from a coaching perspective. Curious about other ideas and strategies? For more employee workplace solutions like this, check out our coaching program. You can also tune into our coaching podcast to learn more about how to effectively manage employees. 

Episode Transcript

[00:00:05] Kim Ades:
Hello, hello. This is Kim Ades, I am the President and Founder of Frame of Mind Coaching™ and you have just joined The Frame of Mind Coaching™ Podcast. And today is Fridays with Ferne and my daughter's here! And she's here to bring us a new case.  

Ferne, welcome.  

[00:00:19] Ferne Kotlyar:
Hello! Thank you so much for having me. Are you ready–

[00:00:24] Kim Ades:
Yeah, of course I'm ready!  

[00:00:26] Ferne Kotlyar:
What were you going to ask?  

[00:00:27] Kim Ades:
I was going to say "what do you have for us today?"  

[00:00:30] Ferne Kotlyar:
Ah, okay, perfect. So today's case is about a man named CJ. Now, CJ is very intelligent, he works super hard, he does really great at work, and he's very, very driven, he thinks differently than other people, which gives him this edge. And so, you know, CJ performs super well in his company, he works his way up the corporate ladder and he gets to this position where he becomes a boss and he has people working under him. 

And so, he now has to work with people, and the issue really is that CJ isn't good at working with people. He's really just a lone wolf and he's not good at teamwork. And so, you know, CJ gets upset at his people, at his employees, that they're not working fast enough, they don't think like he does, they're not good, you know, they don't keep up with his pace, they don't understand him, they're slow, they're not like he was as an employee.  

And he gets frustrated and he doesn't know how to work with them because they're not like him, so he doesn't really understand them. And so, CJ feels stuck and upset because he thought, you know, being in this leadership role, he would be able to make an even bigger impact. 

But really what he's seeing is quite the opposite, is that as a leader, he's not that great, and he's making even less of an impact as he did when he worked alone. So now he's taking on all this work because he thinks other people can't do it. And he's really distressed and overwhelmed and doesn't know how to delegate and feels, quite frankly, bad because, you know, everyone sucks and he's too fast for everyone, yada, yada, yada.  

[00:02:15] Kim Ades:

[00:02:15] Ferne Kotlyar:
So... Yeah. 

[00:02:16] Kim Ades:
All right. Got it. CJ is every single client I've ever had in the world. [Laughs] 

[00:02:22] Ferne Kotlyar:

[00:02:22] Kim Ades:
CJ isn't my client, CJ is the person who is the front runner, the innovator, the person who, as you say, thinks differently, the person who's extremely highly driven and gets a lot done, more than the average Joe, and he's that guy. I get it.  

So CJ comes into a position of leadership and now he has a team and the team isn't performing quite as he wants them to do. They're not doing the things that he wants them to do. They're not doing it quickly enough, they're not doing it effectively enough, efficiently enough. And maybe they're not even doing the things he wants them to do.  

And so he gets upset and then maybe he behaves in ways with his team that is a little bit rough. Maybe he gets angry, maybe he beats them up a little bit. Not literally, but figuratively. And he doesn't understand why his performance and his team performance has declined. And he gets frustrated because his own performance is really a reflection of his team.  

So he feels stuck and he feels trapped and all he wants is for them to do what he says, and they're not doing it. And so again, this is a very, very typical scenario for me. And what I need to teach CJ is this is that whenever we look for-- whenever we want someone to change their behavior, it doesn't work when we just ask them to change their behavior. 

When we just say "hey, here's what I want you to do. Here are the things I want you to do". It's very important for us to understand why people struggle to behave in the ways that will help them reach their goals, and there's a critical piece involved. And this is how we teach people to coach, right? 

These are the fundamentals or the fundamental principles that we use when we coach people, is that the way we think precedes what we do. So our thinking and our beliefs play a massive role in our ability to achieve our goals. And when we don't do the things we're supposed to do and need to do, there's a reason for that. 

Usually it's not related to skill deficiency, intelligence, lack of experience, education, none of that. It's usually related to a set of beliefs that prevent them from engaging in that behavior. And so, what CJ is trying to do is say "just do these things. Here's the task, get them done". What he's not understanding is that his team members probably have a whole set of beliefs, a whole way of thinking that prevents them from getting it done. 

You know, one of the things you said when you described CJ is he thinks differently. And what that really means is he sees the world differently, he has a belief in other possibilities and he doesn't have some of the limiting beliefs that his team members have. And what he's trying to do is move the bus with force, trying to push the bus, right?  

Or I like to use another analogy. He's going to the dog and he wants the dog to wag the tail, so he's trying to take the tail and shake it. 

[00:05:35] Ferne Kotlyar:

[00:05:36] Kim Ades:
Right? That's what he's trying to do, but that's not how we get a dog to wag its tail. How do we get the dog to wag its tail? We talk to the dog, we pet the dog, we give the dog treats and we get the dog to really like us. And it's not that we need to get his employees to really like him. What we need to do is understand what's underneath the surface.  

How are these employees thinking? What do they believe to be true? What makes it hard for them to engage in these tasks? What's actually getting in the way? So we're telling him stop trying to push the bus. Stop trying to exert so much force. Relax. The bus will go when you turn on the engine. And right now you haven't turned on the engine. This engine is saying "I can't do this", right?  

And so what we want him to do is literally take some time to understand how his people think, what their beliefs are and how their beliefs may be, and probably are, the cause of the slowdown, what's creating the blockage. And so we want to help CJ understand.  

So for example, you know, we talk about beliefs a lot, but if I have a fundamental belief that I don't have the intelligence or the skill set to achieve a goal, chances are I'm not going to try very hard at that task. Then I'll just... "ask someone else". And I do that all the time, right?  

So if let's say I'm having a technical problem with my computer or something like that, I usually don't try to figure it out for myself. I usually call my husband, "Allan, can you come help me?" Why? Because I think it's easier, it's faster, it's not my strength. Right? I have other things to do, there are other things on my mind. But that belief prevents me from even trying. 

And we all have that. We all, every single one of us, have a set of beliefs, some of them are more obvious and present and conscious, and most of them are unconscious. We have a whole set of beliefs that we have no access to, that are invisible to us. And those beliefs really get in the way of our performance. 

And so if CJ really wants to be a leader, and if he really wants to help his team perform, it's not enough for him to tell him to tell them "here's what you need to do". It's very important for him to understand how they think and help them think in ways that allow them to reach their goals as well as his. So he's not doing that. He's not taking the time to really understand how people think. And that's what's slowing him down.  

[00:08:12] Ferne Kotlyar:
And let's say CJ believes that everyone is just as driven and hardworking as he is. And, you know, he spends a lot of overtime working. Working during weekends, working nights. And he expects that of his people. But I mean, he's not paying his people to do that. He's paying them... salary, you know? So is that part of his limiting beliefs or theirs?  

[00:08:35] Kim Ades:
Well, look, you know, it depends what he's trying to achieve. If what he's looking for is to achieve a goal by expecting, you know, a dramatic increase in work effort and hours that they're not being compensated for, then what we want to do with CJ is say okay, so how do we structure your organization, your team, so that they're all performing.  

Because if they are all like you, then they're all going to be leaders, they're all going to be business owners, they're not going to stay here. Not everybody is wired that way and that's okay, right? We need some people to do the work. Not everybody can be where you are and we don't want everybody to be where you are.  

And so how do we build a business accepting that people want to work from nine to five? Could that be okay? And if that's the case, how do we create this structure to really maximize those hours? How do we get them thinking in ways where those nine-to-five hours are super productive and create a lot of contribution?  

[00:09:38] Ferne Kotlyar:
So you're saying that–

[00:09:40] Kim Ades:
And maybe some of them will become leaders and you'll find out who they are.  

[00:09:44] Ferne Kotlyar:
So you're saying that in order to be a good leader, you need to be a good coach?  

[00:09:49] Kim Ades:
A hundred thousand percent. And I think you need coaching skills and I think you need to know how to ask the right questions. And I think you need to understand how to identify people's beliefs and you need to understand how those beliefs play a massive role. In fact, probably the single most important role in determining performance. And you need to have that skill set under your belt.  

And so one of the things we do with our clients, after they go through coaching, is we invite them into what we call FOM Methods, which is an opportunity to learn how we coach, so that they can take those coaching skills back to their companies, back to their families, back to their leadership roles, and really do an incredible job in their roles. 

[00:10:33] Ferne Kotlyar:
And do you tend to notice a difference?  

[00:10:35] Kim Ades:
Maximum difference. A huge difference. They are different because they show up differently, they've been coached. But now they're different because they have different kinds of conversations. They're asking different questions. They are seeing people in a much better light and they are helping people get better at their jobs, not by teaching them what to do, but by showing them how to think. That's very powerful.  

[00:11:02] Ferne Kotlyar:
Very powerful. So if you were to give CJ one more piece of advice, what would this advice be?  

[00:11:09] Kim Ades:
I would ask him a question. I would say, why do you think... let's assume that everyone wants to succeed, let's assume that everyone wants to do a good job and to be seen in a good light and everyone wants to be acknowledged. Let's assume that. Why do you think they're struggling to perform?  

And I would really have him sit down and understand that their struggle to perform comes from a different place. It's usually not related to skill, it's usually not related to talent or experience. It's related to their beliefs. So I would have him contemplate what are some of the beliefs that might be interfering with their ability to perform.

And if you don't know them, let me help you ask the right questions, so you can unveil those beliefs and address them.  

[00:11:57] Ferne Kotlyar:
So once he does figure out these beliefs, what does he do with them? How does he change them?  

[00:12:02] Kim Ades:
Well, you know, it's very interesting. When I coach someone and I identify a belief that really isn't serving someone, first of all, I say "is this the belief?" And they say yes. And then I say "does this belief allow you to reach your goal with ease?" And they say, no. And then I say "well, is that belief even true? Could there be another possibility? Could this be true also? Well, if this could be true also then does this belief really hold water? It doesn't".  

And so what we do is we lower, we diminish the impact of this strong belief and we replace it with a better belief that serves them better, more efficiently. 

[00:12:44] Ferne Kotlyar:
It sounds like should work.  

[00:12:46] Kim Ades:
It does. It's magic.  

[00:12:48] Ferne Kotlyar:
[Laughs] Sounds incredible. Well, thank you so much.  

[00:12:52] Kim Ades:
Thank you for the case. For those of you who are listening, if you're that highly driven individual and your team isn't working as quickly, as effectively, as well as you would like them to work, ask yourself a very important question: what beliefs do they have and how are those beliefs playing a role in their performance? And if you want to talk about that, please reach out.  

I can be reached kim@frameofmindcoaching.com.  

And if you have a case that you want to share with us, reach out to Ferne! How do they reach you Ferne?  

[00:13:22] Ferne Kotlyar:
Email me at fernekotlyar@live.com.  

[00:13:30] Kim Ades:
And for those of you who are listening, please like, please share, and please spread the word about the podcast, and we love to get your feedback, we want to hear from. Please reach out. We're looking forward to hearing from you. In the meantime, have a great week and we'll see you next week.

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