Training Badge
Submitted by jsjdn2 on


I  had started to lookup Kate's email to ask her directly, since she was the presenter at the Kansas City conference that I attended in 2018.  If my memory serves me (which it does less frequently as time rolls on), I recall her telling the conference attendees, that we could use her email like a Disney Fast Pass, should we need some management assistance. 

Then while concurrently listening to a recent pod cast, I was reminded of the forum(s) and that I could also search the site itself.  Yet, when searching this site i found nothing relevant other than the "coach yourself" show notes.  Determined to save my fast pass for a real emergency, here I am, throwing myself upon the mercy of my peers and above..

So beloved community of those who endeavor to create a better world,

Can anyone recommend some resources I could use for coaching a direct who stutters?  She is an outstanding resource and her work product is beyond reproach, and someone that I honestly want to help become more effective, believing that mitigating this even a little would help.

Kate if you're reading this, I am the red haired old guy, well mostly white haired now and even then, that gave you a KC Royals clock, to remember us here in the Heart of America (and apologize for my fellow Kansas Citians who did not show up in mass as I thought they would and should)..

katehorstman's picture
Admin Role Badge


Hello, sir! I am reading this and remember you fondly. I still have the clock. I will draft you some guidance here in the next few days. Please stand by and I will post here for you. 


Katherine Potter's picture
Training Badge

I will have a direct also with this issue, and would love any help you can provide.

Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge

Folks-  I am sorry my reply has taken so long.  I regret my delay.  Kate asked me to respond to you, and I simply did not do it.  I am sorry.

I have coached executives who stutter before.  For everyone the path is a little different, but it is not difficult, in my esitmation.  As I am claustrophobic, I have a soft spot in my heart for those who struggle with situations like hers. 

I would probably not call this situation one that lends itself to our coaching model. Remember, stuttering is a disability.  It's covered under the ADA. If you try to coach her and she claims you're stigmatizing her, that's not good.  She has to agree to your efforts.

Check FOR her about what your company will cover.  This should take nothng more than a call to HR/Benefits.  Commmunicate that to your direct.  She may not be aware that it's covered, and so she hasn't sought a speech therapist due to costs.

Tell your team what you're going to be doing.  Some managers have told me they prefer to check with the person they're helping, but I wouldn't.  If your direct and you are talking about it, and surely everyone knows about it, I recommend (and in fact have done, many times, with other stiatuions) slaying the dragon publicly.  "We all know that Jane stutters, and I'm going to be trying to help her in the months ahead.  I appreicate your positivity around this effort." Something like that.

URGE your direct to see a speech therapist.  The causes of stuttering are NOT agreed upon, and typically speech therapists work not only on mechanics and coping mechanisms, but also can also help with emotional causes and emotional results.

Give negative feedback to those on your team who in any way detract from this direct's efforts. Smirking, exclusion, etc - negative feedback.  If it persists, go to systemic feedback.  No tolerance.

Talk to your direct about how she wants to handle public occurences.  And then turn that into behavior.

Don't kid yourself that you're going to cure her stuttering.  You're not.  The speech therapist might make some difference, and a supportive team environment might contribute as well. But there are plenty of stutterers who believe that one will ALWAYS be a stutterer.  My point to those folks was always that I don't care who you ARE, I care what you DO.  And if we can work together to reduce/minimize moments where you're not communicating the way you want, that makes you and me and the firm more effective...whether you're "still a stutterer" or not.

Don't let them retreat into Email/Slack (unless they claim it's covered under ADA).  Normal voice conversation is part of a functional workplace.  Don't excuse her from speaking, unless her therapist arranges a medical excuse, or HR says you have to, just because you think it will ease her burden.  

That doesn't mean you shouldn't make adjustments - work with her to figure out where those lines should be.  Don't be afraid to ask her how much help she wants.  Ask her how she wants everyeone to respond when she doesn stutter - what would be helpful? 

Final point - you're not going to cure her of her stuttering, but you can help her work successfully with and around it.