Underperforming employee

Soooo I’m not gonna lie, dealing with underperformance was the least favourite part of my job as a manager.

I hated it.

As soon as I saw a KPI that was not on track I instantly got a pit in my stomach because I knew what I would have to do next and it was not enjoyable for me at all.

Can you relate?

At first I just did the thing – had the hard conversation.

But I found that my success rate was low. Sometimes the team member would make the necessary corrections and sometimes I would find myself back in the room two or three weeks later…..having the same conversation.

Clearly something was wrong with my process.

I was so confused, I mean why was I having to have the same conversation again. Clearly they knew what they were supposed to be doing so why was it not happening?

I realized that the reason my success rate was low was because I was starting from the wrong place.

You see my process was – see the low kpi, address the issue. I never stopped to think about WHY the team member was not meeting their KPI.

So every time I had the conversation I was not actually addressing the real issue, just the symptom or the KPI that was not being met.

Performance issues are oftentimes a lagging indicator of something more.

Asking that one question of why will help you determine what actually needs to be fixed, changed or adjusted so that you can see better results or at least have a far better conversation.

That’s what this week’s video is about. Some of the reasons WHY employees underperform.

Would you prefer to read rather than watch? Not to worry! You can read the blog post below. 

But first, to really help you stand out in your new role I highly recommend downloading the New Manager Starter Kit. A free downloadable interactive guide to help you show up and stand out and take the right action steps.

Reason Number #1 – No room for growth

People want to feel as though they are growing and they want to feel as though there is opportunity for them to keep progressing.

No one wants to feel stifled. When people feel as if there is nothing to strive to or they feel they are paddling in a stagnant pool they start to get stagnant themselves.

Now sometimes we find ourselves in an organization that’s just not growing.

And so the idea of a promotion isn’t really something that you can help them strive for.

But there are many other ways to help someone grow without a promotion.

For example, training opportunities for personal development is a great growth opportunity.

When’s the last time you asked your team members what their personal goals are? Or when is the last time you asked how you can help them attain their goals?

This is a great way to help someone develop that does not involve a title change.

Reason number #2 – No challenge

This is a big one particularly in roles where the job is very monotonous.

Now listen some jobs are just monotonous there’s not much nuance to it and that’s the way it is.

But it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t start to get draining and guess what rears its head in underperforming ways?

Something that our team tested seeing as though the front line team members had very monotonous work was role switching or role shadowing.

This worked so well. Two to three times a month we would just have team members switch roles with a member of the leadership team or shadow us.

This kept things fresh and it was something they looked forward to. We also tried incorporating learning into the week.

We also used our team meeting or huddle as a way to infuse micro learning into work – by considering different topics. We found that this kept work fresh and kept our team members energized for the monotonous type of work they were doing.

Reason number #3 – Unclear expectations

Not knowing what target you should be hitting is the most frustrating thing ever and I’m speaking from personal experience.

I went through a period when I was moved into senior management where I had three different bosses.

And even though they were all under one organization, they all wanted something different and had different ideas of what they wanted and expected from me and my growing department.

It was frustrating.

To do one thing and be told you have to unwind it and to do another and have to unwind it was frustrating.

I got to a point where I just stopped asking because the waters were always murky. And if I’m being honest this led to me eventually leaving the company.

No one wants to be in a position where they are being asked to do something and they don’t know what the expectations are.

If I don’t know what the ground rules are then how can I play the game the way you want me to play it?

This is why failure to properly outline expectations is a sure fire way to turn a high performer into an under performer.

I have a video on setting clear expectations which I will link right here if you want to dive deeper into how to set standards and expectations with your team members.

Reason number #4 – Lack of clear communication

Communication is key.

There’s this quote that I just love by George Bernard Shaw

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

It’s very common for us to think we have communicated something but the truth is we haven’t. Or not necessarily in the way that the person we are speaking to understands it or really takes it in.

To me there is no such thing as over communication.

Some of the greatest communicators in the world repeat themselves.

What is it they say that someone has to hear something like 7 times before they actually hear it?!

So if you give up after the first or second time then chances are it hasn’t been heard.

When it comes to communication – you have to be intentional about it.

One of the best ways for you to apply effective communication is by first preparing.

As a tip, make a mental outline of what the other person needs to know, and what you want them to do before you even utter words.

Reason number #5- Personal issues

Life is hard. And everyone is fighting their own battles.

Right now we are in the middle of a pandemic so distraction is at an all time high.

When people are feeling like this it is only natural that performance will dwindle.

The best solution to this would be to address the issue immediately and to provide an open door policy that gives them an opportunity to discuss what’s happening maybe even seeing if the company has any counselling services available to them.