Tackling Underperformance

Tackling Underperformance

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Do you have an underperformer on your team? You aren’t alone. Many managers struggle with addressing underperformance. Here’s what you need to do.

First, let’s make some assumptions: we will assume the team member’s underperformance is solely related to their work (i.e. there are no personal reasons such as relationship, family, health, etc). Let’s also assume the person has experience and is not a new employee.

The Golden Rule

The first question to ask yourself is “What is that person thinking and feeling?”

Very early on I learned the golden rule of performance is “How my staff behaves and performs directly relates to how they see the situation.”

In other words, what they are thinking and feeling about their job, their future, the company, and you as their manager directly relates to how they are behaving and performing.

Lead with Empathy

In your one-on-one conversations lead with empathy. Get them to open up about their thoughts and feelings about their job and performance.

Understanding what they are thinking and feeling is a critical prerequisite for fixing underperformance.

As their leader, the reality, however hard it may be to hear, is that you may be part of their problem and may resist you being part of their solution. Remember the number one reason people leave their job is because of their boss.

If the underperforming individual is not willing or able to open up to you substitute in a fellow leader, HR partner, coach or mentor.

Types of Underperformers

Understanding the individual’s thoughts and feelings will enable you to determine the cause of the underperformance. There are generally three types of underperformers:

1. They don’t know how to do their job to the standards required and the individual is not cut out for this particular job.

2. They don’t know how to do their job to the standards required and the individual is capable; however, they are lacking learning and development support from the leader/organisation.

3. They know how to do the job and do it very well. They work hard but don’t feel recognized, challenged or supported by the leaders/business. This frustration is causing their underperformance.

Solving Underperformance

In all the scenarios above, underperformance can be solved by conversations with the individual. The key is to structure the conversations around on their forward and future events, activities, opportunities and roles.

If you and the individual have discovered they are not cut out for the job (this will happen with open and honest dialogue), then conversations should commence about finding them their best role. You must take care here and consult your HR partner or careers professional for your organisation.

If the individual is capable but fears they are lacking learning and development support, then attempt conversations about upskilling. Working together to put a personal, meaningful and achievable Individual Development Plan (IDP) in place is a great place to start.

If the individual is capable and not behaving or performing due to attitude reasons, then start conversations about future opportunities and roles for the individual (internal or external). Similar to the above, you should begin working together to put a plan in place. In this case an Individual Succession Plan (ISP) is a great place to start.

As soon as the individual views their future as favorable their behaviors and performance will improve.

As a leader, managing underperformers presents a great opportunity to quickly develop and hone your leaderships skills and experience. Make sure you seek guidance and mentorship as needed. If you need a strong IDP or ISP template message me.

Looking for more leadership and management tips and tricks? Keep an eye on my weekly blog.

Quote of the week: “Leaders must be close enough to relate to others, but far enough ahead to motivate them” – John C Maxwell