The Four P’s for Coaching Employees through Disappointments

Date posted: December 18, 2014


By Shani Magosky

Year-end is often a daunting time to be a manager, especially when faced with the uncomfortable task of communicating potentially disappointing news, constructively critical performance reviews, or unsettling changes. A best practice I’ve developed to help leaders coach people through such stressful situations involves guiding them through a logical series of Four P’s:

  1. Process. Encourage your people to actually process setbacks rather than bottling them up. Emotions must be processed so that they can move through and eventually out of us; otherwise, they literally get stored in our bodies and trigger discomfort or even disease. While you may certainly offer to be a sounding board, most people process professional upsets best outside the office, so allow reasonable time and space.
  2. Probing. We learn so much more from our failures than successes. As such, once a person has had processed a disappointment, work with him/her to extract the valuable lessons from the experience. The only real failure in any setback is learning nothing from it and ceasing to grow. Ask some probing questions in order to prompt meaningful self-reflection, such as: What do you do well and want to keep doing or do more of? What could you have done differently to realize more of what you wanted? What do you think you’ll tell people that you learned if recounting this experience five years from now?
  3. Perspectives. Help your people consider the experience from a different perspective aside from one of disappointment or anxiety. We never know the full truth behind anything, and it is human nature to create stories to fill in the missing pieces in our minds. Sadly, the stories we make up tend to be negative. Since we can choose to adopt any mindset we want, why not adopt one that’s constructive, grounded in some realistic possibility, and propels us forward.
  4. Planning. Buoyed by some emotional catharsis, insights from answering probing questions, and some heartening perspectives, your people will now be in a much better place to plan next steps and revise their goals. We can’t change the past, but we can control the decisions we make and the actions we take moving forward. Collaborate with your people to help them think through creative ideas and commit to specific and measurable actions.

Utilizing this 4-step process will not only boost employees’ well-being, self-awareness, and productivity, but also increase accountability around future success.

Shani Magosky is a talent management consultant and executive coach, having worked in numerous industries, for venerable institutions and unknown start-ups, in a range of economic environments from bubble to recession, and in revenue-producing, advisory, and senior managerial roles. Previously, she worked at Goldman Sachs, managed a local TV station in Vail, Colo., and was chief operating officer/chief financial officer of an all-virtual international marketing company. Her firm, Vitesse Consulting, helps companies accelerate development of leaders, engage employees, and improve performance. She can be reached at or (970) 376-1860. 

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