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Formula for Handling Under-Performance (Works Every Time!)

Formula for Handling Under-Performance (Works Every Time!)

If you manage people, you’ll know how exciting it is to hire great talent, but you’ve probably also experienced the awful feeling when a member of the team isn’t performing.  It costs you time, money and is a reflection on you as a leader.

But how long do you continue to invest your time and money into someone who’s letting the team down?  Firing someone is never nice.  And should be a last resort.  It’s quite normal to just live in hope for a while that performance levels will return and the problem will go away.  But what if it doesn’t? And how much does waiting cost you?

My advice is to keep things simple.  Answer this question….

Is the under-performance because the staff member CAN’T or WON’T perform?

In my 20 years of people leadership experience, it’s never anything else.  I urge you to challenge me on that too.  In the past, I’ve tried to make every excuse in the book for staff that I’ve truly liked as people, and desperately didn’t want to exit from the business.

But it always comes back to can’t or won’t.
So, how do you fix it?  Firing should be the last step.  Try these things first…

  • Spend time with the person and observe them doing their role (or the thing they’re under performing at)
  • Give them timely and honest feedback
  • Be open to being given feedback from them (what if your training style isn’t great?)
  • Complete a training needs analysis
  • Make sure you understand their preferred learning style
  • Agree an action plan with specific learning milestones and dates for achievement
  • Give them the necessary training (or a refresher) in a classroom or on the job
  • Allocate them a more experienced team member to act as a buddy
  • Encourage self- development so that they can learn outside of the day job
  • Share some book titles that they might benefit from reading
  • Hold regular review meetings and side-by-side coaching sessions to measure success
  • Give credit and praise where it’s due

If these things don’t fix the gap in performance, then your under-peformer is most likely a WON’T. The issue is with their attitude or motivation, or both.

You need to test out the strength and depth of the ‘won’t’

A won’t person, is usually just cruising along.  Are they wasting time?  Do they avoid particular tasks?  Are they already job hunting?  Or are they just plain lazy?

  • Talk to them and ask why they think they’re under-performing.  They may try and bluff their way out if things – blaming a lack of training or coaching (but you’ll have already dealt with that in the above steps)
  • Make sure you know what motivates this person – money, praise, job satisfaction?
  • Agree an action plan with very clear, time bound objectives
  • Make sure there isn’t something personal going on (don’t pry or delve too deep but you need to be sure that the person isn’t really suffering from stress, depression, bereavement or similar)
  • If this person can’t find the motivation, they probably need to leave the business.  Quickly.  But be sure to follow employment law practises.

You are not alone in having to deal with under performance.  All teams have variations in performance.  The key to your success as a leader is to always manage everyone appropriately and according to their individual needs.

 Thanks for reading

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By Rachael Howourth


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