Confronting Performance Issues

We’ve all had employees who we wish would live up to their potential or at least live up to the expectations and goals we’ve set for them. We send gentle reminders and ask how things are going. We hope that they get the hint and put some bounce in their step and light a fire under them.

Some do respond and are able to begin meeting deadlines or completing tasks a bit more thoroughly. But what about those stragglers who just can’t seem to get it? Do we just keep wishing and hoping that they’ll turn it all around?

This is where we, as leaders, have to ask ourselves some tough questions.

  1. Clear Goals- have we set up some clear targets. For salespeople, it’s easier. We tell them how much in sales or new accounts we need to be opened in a given week/month/year. For professionals who work on projects or who have specific tasks, it may be harder. Let’s say you have a bookkeeper who just can’t stay on top of receivables or is just a bit late in making deposits. Maybe he or she makes the deposit the next day versus the day you requested. If you make it a goal to always make the weekly deposit on Wednesday by 3 pm, then you can track against that goal and let the employee know that their annual performance review and possible raise depends on this.
  2. AccountabilityAnnual, semi-annual, or even monthly reviews can be empowering. When you set up regular meetings with your folks about their performance in key areas, neither you nor they are surprised when at the end of the year they get a good review or one that is less than stellar.
  3. Open Dialog– Are you a scary boss? Do your employees feel they can talk to you when they are running into problems and aren’t going to be able to complete a task on time? If you haven’t worked on your Emotional Intelligence, you need to (see my course on EI). Learning to be the type of leader whom your employees feel they can discuss problems/obstacles and ideas with is key to creating the successful business you dream of. If those who are closest to the customer or task can’t tell you how to improve the process or close more deals, then your business will continue to suffer. Work with you so your team will know it is safe for them to work on themselves.
  4. Praise and Reward Regardless of it’s a simple Starbucks gift card, a half day off, or a simple thank you, your employees will appreciate it when you appreciate them. People want to work for bosses they respect and who they feel respect them. Appreciate and gratitude (even if you are paying a salary) goes a long way towards loyalty, improved morale, and employee engagement. Find ways to appreciate your team for even the simple tasks they complete on time and within expectations. It doesn’t have to cost much if anything. A simple recognition at a team meeting or via email can go a long way to improving how they perceive themselves. It is proven that if a person feels they have a certain reputation to live up to, good or bad, they will. Encourage your employees to see themselves as capable, high performing, and valued and watch them bloom under the praise.

Your team deserves for you to have the courage to address any issues that come up. If you have a bad apple, the others know it. If you continue to let that person’s performance slide, your other employees will see it and either slack off or resent you for your inability to manage the situation. The most important thing to a good coaching or counseling session is preparation. Make sure you have the facts and all the details about the declining work performance. Then allow the employee to share with you what may have gotten in the way of them meeting your expectations.

I have found in my years of leadership training that many managers don’t realize the goals they thought were so clear weren’t clear to the employees. Don’t fall into that trap. Address your concerns quickly and consistently. Favorites has no place in managing a high performing team.

To your continued leadership success!

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