How to Spend Less Time Solving Performance Issues and More Time Delivering Results
It’s tempting to prioritize poor performers and neglect middle and top performers.
Leaders believe small improvements in poor performance make a big difference. They’re right, but how likely is progress?
Leaders fall into the trap of dedicating too much time and energy to poor performers because poor performers:
- Waste resources.
- Frustrate team mates.
- Have tons of lost potential. You hired them because they were awesome.
The personal side of spending too much time with poor performers:
- Ego boosts. You feel important, perhaps superior, when dealing with poor performers.
- False compassion. You avoid tough conversations under the guise of compassion.
- Pressure. Higher ups expect you to do something about poor performers.
- Savior syndrome. You love riding in on your white horse. (See ego boost.)
4 rules of thumb for dealing with poor performers:
- Don’t ignore poor performers. Ignoring poor performers sends the wrong message to everyone.
- Institute progressively aggressive short-term interventions.
- If, after repeated efforts, there’s little improvement, change direction. Don’t employ the same strategies and expect different results.
- If, after repeated efforts, there’s progress, keep it up!
Don’t declare victory too soon, when you see small improvements.
Three overlooked reasons for poor performance:
- Misdirected passion. Everyone has passion. Poor performers are passionate about other things.
- Arrogance. They don’t need to improve. Others are the problem.
- Lack of self-awareness. They don’t see themselves as they are seen.
Dive deep to solve nagging performance issues.
Training won’t help when passion is the issue. Setting goals won’t help when arrogance blocks progress. Encouragement won’t help when lack of self-awareness prevents growth.
Deliver tough feedback kindly.
Lack of self-awareness – administer a 360 degree assessment.
Misdirected passion – explore authenticity and purpose.
Arrogance – practice humility. Seek and adopt advice from teammates.
The joyful middle:
Middle performers represent the greatest opportunity for improvement.
What are some overlooked reasons for poor performance?
How might leaders overcome the trap of spending too much time with poor performers?
Good morning Dan. At some point, the best thing for the team member and the team is to find an exit plan. What do you think?
Thanks Jay. I agree. It’s difficult, for some leaders, to come to that conclusion. After coming to that conclusion, it’s even more difficult to figure out what the exit plan looks like, unless you just kick people to the curb.
Having said that, successfully managing someone out is often the best thing for them, as well as the organization.
“Motivation” is a key to under performance or lack of. “Burned out” overworked, “disrespected” all come to mind for overlooked reasons, although there can be deeper reasons, physical or mental problems hidden from view, Wrong career path chosen, just may not be the right candidate for the Tasks or business.
Many of the solutions boil down to are we doing our best for the company? In return is the company doing their best for the workforce? Requires equal commitment from all parties involved.
Thanks Tim. I feel both challenge and compassion in your comment. Things like feeling over-worked or disrespected are important factors to performance. Both individuals and organizations bear responsibility for these issues.
Hi Dan, when we hire for competence and cultural fit we should not be surprised that peak performance is hard to achieve. The missing ingredient is more often than not a lack of adequate or better job talent.
Dan, should we approach each poorly-performing employee with the same approach (a standard practice that applies to all employees), or should each case be met with an individually-tailored performance improvement plan? I’ve seen both approaches, and seen both work. A case-by-case approach seems more personal and may net better relationships coming out of the issue, but a standard practice with concrete steps prevents accusations of favoritism and promotes equity among all employees. What are your thoughts?
One of my favorite ways to help people that are not where we need them to be is to use my best. Normally my best performers are the people that are going to be looked at for promotion I use this as a training tool for them. I go over how to provide coaching to people and let them mentor them. I prepare my best for more responsibilities when it is needed and they normally go above and beyond to prove they are worthy of this privilege. This starts to promote a culture of help within the team.
Some (I proport many) of us poor performers are victims of subclinical psychopathic CEOs (see Barking Up The Wrong Tree, 10/16/16) who are waiting for some form of restoration and readmittence into into the greater social order. As such a victim, I have begun to appreciate the difficulty behind any true racial reconciliation in the US. Its not as easy as “just getting over it.” People fall into one of two camps, part of the problem or part of the solution. There’s much work involved, but much to be gained. Until Michelangelo put his chisel to it, it was just a block of marble.