8 Tips For Managing Non-Performance

If you’re a leader within an organisation, chances are there’s someone in your team who just ‘aint cuttin’ the mustard in some way right now.

You know you have to deal with it, but it’s a tricky, sticky, icky situation; one which might be easier to leave for a rainy day. Or a sunny day. Or any other day that isn’t today.

If you feel this way, or are pulling your hair out as to how to approach the situation, you’re not alone.

Dealing with performance issues is one of the most common challenges for leaders – and one of the most frequently raised topics in my coaching practice.

What does non-performance look like?

Generally speaking, non-performance falls into two camps (or worse, a combination of the two):

1. Output focussed non-performance.  This is where the person is not delivering the required output – or the standard of their work is not up to scratch. This is usually all about the technical, easily measurable, quantitative aspects of the role.

Signs you’ve got an output focussed performance problem can include:

–       lots of rework by you or others

–       a reluctance by you to delegate to them because “they won’t do a good enough job”

–       consistently missing deadlines or other time management issues

–       A sense they are really struggling, despite their noble efforts

Root causes of this type of performance issue can often be a lack of specific skills, training or being promoted beyond the capability of the person. You sense their heart is in the right place, there’s no lack of sweat and determination on their behalf, but somewhere there’s a road block.

2. Behavioural non-performance.

This is more about how they are doing the job; i.e. their behaviour or attitude.

Signs you’ve got this type of performance issue?

The high performer who gets the results but achieves them in the wrong way.

They may brass everyone off in the process, leave a trail of destruction behind them everywhere they go, and/or demonstrate behaviours which aren’t conducive to good teamwork.

They’re not really demonstrating some or all of the company or team values. You sense they are unaware of the effect they are having – or they are, but it’s not important enough to them to change their approach.

This can be harder to pinpoint and address, but is equally as important to tackle.

Now you’ve identified non-performance, how do you approach it?

8 Tips For Managing Non-Performance:

1. Get clear upfront on what good performance looks like.  It may seem obvious, but make sure you are both on the same page about what is required and what success looks like. If they are performing in the role, what would we be seeing? How will we know? Discussions around good performance looking “like THIS, not THIS” can be helpful. Opportunities for this arise when initially moving into a role, at reviews, in team discussions, when reviewing projects and at monthly one on ones. Too often performance issues occur due to lack of time and communication up front.

2. Get comfortable and skilled at giving and receiving regular feedback. Make feedback or feed forward in your team like the tide which ebbs and flows daily. Shine a light on what you want to see grow.

3. Ask yourself, is this non-performance output focussed or behavioural? Adopt the stance of a curious, objective and non-judgemental witness. Notice when, how often, and what you are specifically seeing.

4. Are they even aware there is a problem? Often people are completely unaware they are doing something which is either holding them back in some way or brassing people off.  As a manager, your job is to gently, compassionately and supportively let them know! It’s a perfect coaching opportunity.

5. Don’t wait too long to raise it. Did you see them talking over others in a meeting you just had? Grab them on the way out of the meeting and ask; “Not sure if you noticed but….” Nip it in the bud. Did I say, don’t wait too long? I’ll say it again for good measure – don’t wait too long 🙂

6. Agree on a game plan. Once discussed, talk about what they will do differently to address it. Help them to be specific and own it. Agree precisely on the next steps – even if it’s merely for both of you “to put it on your radar”. What support do they need from you and others in order to change?

7. Still no change? Explore what’s getting in the way. Encourage them to see the benefits of changing and the consequences of not – for themselves, their team and the organisation. See here for more tips on helping others to gain clarity.

8. Don’t let non-performance go on ad finitum. It’s not fair on them, their co-workers, you or the organisation. Be clear in your own mind about how long is long enough and what the consequences of not changing will be (and then stick to it).

What are your tips on managing non-performance? As a manager (or when the shoe has been on the other foot), what works?  

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts and perspective.

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Suzi McAlpine

Suzi McAlpine is a Leadership Development Specialist and author of the award-winning leadership blog, The Leader’s Digest. She writes and teaches about accomplished leadership, what magic emerges when it’s present, and how to ignite better leadership in individuals, teams and organisations. Suzi has been a leader and senior executive herself, working alongside CEOs and executive teams in a variety of roles. Her experience has included being a head-hunter, an executive coach, and a practice leader for a division at the world’s largest HR consulting firm. Suzi provides a range of services as a Leadership Development Specialist, including executive coaching, leadership workshops and development programmes for CEOs, leadership teams and organisations throughout New Zealand.

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