by Melissa Jackman
Date Published June 26, 2019 - Last Updated December 17, 2019

What is a diamond in the rough? 

By definition, a diamond in the rough is merely a clump of carbon that, given the right circumstances, is able to develop into a high-quality jewel. The official process of manufacturing a diamond consists of various steps that include planning, shaping, applying friction, polishing, and inspecting, all of which can help you to grow your employee into a beautiful solid resilient employee.


The first step in the process of creating a valuable jewel of an employee is to discuss with them where they want their career to go and work to create a plan for how they can get there. This is the most critical step in the process. In a Harvard Business Review  article titled Managing Oneself, Peter Drucker stated, “The first secret of effectiveness is to understand the people you work with so that you can make use of their strengths.” By working to develop a relationship with them and seeking to understand their desires, as their manager, it will be easier to place them in areas where they will thrive.  If you are new to this process, here are some questions to start the conversation:

  • What do you want to achieve?
  • What are you next steps?
  • How will we measure success?
  • How frequently will we meet to measure progress toward your goals?


At some point in our careers, we have all hopefully had a coach, mentor, or manager who has taken the time to invest in us and provide constructive feedback for our improvement. Unfortunately, many times managers are hesitant to address concerns directly with their staff for fear of an uncomfortable interaction. Truth be told, addressing issues promptly results in strong commitment levels from employees because someone has taken an interest in their success. In an article The Best Teams Hold Themselves Accountable, by Joseph Grenny, he states “that you can approximate the health of a relationship, a team and an organization by measuring the average lag time between identifying and discussing problems. The shorter the lag time, the faster problems get solved and the more the resolution enhances relationships. The longer the lag, the more room there is for mistrust, dysfunction, and more tangible costs to mount.”

People need to know that you will tell them if they aren’t meeting your expectations. In a recent survey that I conducted among a variety of IT support professionals, they indicated that the number one de-motivator for them was their boss not addressing an issue with them directly and promptly. Employees are not mind readers and are looking to their leaders to be coaches to help them succeed.

If you are in the majority who are hesitant to address issues, use this formula to aid in talking to an employee where there is an opportunity for coaching:

Give a genuine compliment + explain what you have observed + give another GENUINE compliment with the confidence the issue will be addressed.  

The key is being genuine. Even the most difficult employees have positive attributes. Before having the discussion about the situation that you would like improved, sit down and reflect on what they do well. By doing this, you will change your outlook from scolding an employee for bad behavior, to being invested in the employee’s success.

Even the most difficult employees have positive attributes.
Tweet: Even the most difficult employees have positive attributes. @melissajackman @ThinkHDI #leadership #techsupport #servicedesk #workforcemanagement

Applying Friction

It is often easy for employees to fall into a routine where they become comfortable and complacent in their positions. As a leader, it is essential to push your staff outside of their comfort zone. It is only through this action that you will aid your staff in reaching their fullest potential.  Fear holds back so many employees, and your job as their coach is to help them overcome. While you can’t solve every one of their fears, the following are some fears that you can help with:

  • Fear of Failure: The key to success is overcoming failure. Give your staff the ability to make mistakes. Coach them on common pitfalls as they go through the process of taking a risk on a new process and be there to support them if it fails. Lessons learned are some of the most powerful teaching moments.
  • Fear of Public Speaking: Many people fear public speaking more than death. However, it is a skill that can transform our place in the organization. By providing an opportunity for employees to brush up on their presentation skills, you not only aid in their growth professionally, but you also get them recognized by others within the company, thus providing a better opportunity for career advancement.


Encouraging employees to reflect on their strengths and weaknesses is key to an employee’s growth. A variety of assessments, such as Myers Briggs, PRINT, and StrengthsFinder 2.0, can help aid in that process of self-discovery. These tools help to identify areas of strength and areas that are great opportunities for growth. Reviewing the results and setting a plan in place to grow in areas of weakness can help not only the individual’s growth, but also aid in better employee relations among peers.

Encourage participation in professional networks, like HDI, where employees can connect to others in a similar position or a position they are aiming to achieve. By doing so, they learn best practices of other organizations and empower themselves to bring those great ideas back into your business. The result is great innovative ideas and an employee who is engaged and empowered.


Performance evaluations are an awesome tool for a comprehensive reflection of your staff’s accomplishments over the past year. But take note, this is just one tool. Through the purposeful development of your relationship with your staff, coaching conversations should happen frequently, so that by the time the performance evaluation comes up, the employee could basically write it themselves.

The Finishing Touch

By walking through the process of planning, shaping, applying friction, polishing, and inspecting, you can develop your staff for success. When your staff succeeds, your customers are better cared for, which has a direct impact on your bottom line. By taking the time to nurture your staff, you can be sure that your team’s diamond in the rough will be a valuable jewel in no time.

Melissa Jackman is an IT service management professional with more than 25 years of experience leading high-performance teams in service delivery and support for IT infrastructures and operations. Melissa has a strong commitment to servant leadership, professional coaching, and fostering team dynamics. She also has broad experience implementing ITSM tools and processes, cybersecurity, and identity and access management. Melissa has served as a local chapter officer for HDI Steel City and has presented at a variety of conferences on topics such as critical skills for new managers, trust, managing multigenerational teams, and coaching. She currently serves as the Help Desk Manager at Duquesne University, providing support for a campus community of approximately 10,000 students and 3000 faculty and staff. Follow her on Twitter @melissajackman.

Tag(s): supportworld, workforce enablement, workforce enablement, leadership, coaching


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