Do you work with people you know are not performing well? Do you feel like you are ‘carrying’ people in your team? So often we speak with people who are frustrated because, to them, it is so obvious that people in their team are not performing, yet no action is taken. In one organisation, we spoke with people who promoted poor performers in order to get them out of their teams without having to deal with the issues. So, why does this happen so often?
Managing the performance of team members is an aspect of leadership that many managers find the most difficult to do. Often people are promoted to a team management role because they are good at what they do, not because they are good at managing people. Too often they are then given little, if any, assistance in leading their team.
Managing poor performers means putting in place clear performance targets for each person in your team and managing against these. Targets should relate both to the financial and other goals of the business as well as the values and behaviours that drive the culture of the business and your team. Once you have these measures it is easier to have difficult conversations with people who are not performing against their targets or are not behaving in line with agreed company and team behaviours. Sometimes people perform poorly because they are no longer interested in their role, and a conversation where you ask them what they want to do about this gives them an opportunity to ‘lift their game’ or leave.
Failing to deal with poor performers doesn’t just mean you are getting less than you expect from those people. It is demoralising for the whole team and often leads to good people leaving because they become unhappy with carrying the extra load. When leaders fail to address poor performance they are effectively condoning it – this can lead to a loss of respect from other team members or create a culture of poor performance.
It’s important to act quickly and consistently once poor performance has been identified. Be specific and clear with your feedback. Don’t confront in anger – do it calmly, in private, and keep a record of the steps taken. Use the conversation as the start of the process for redirecting employee behaviour towards what you expect of them. Take the time to understand why they are performing below expectations (for example is due to a lack of ability or motivation?) and use this information to help create a plan for moving forward.
Yes, managing poor performance can be tricky but it is also an opportunity to develop and grow your team while modelling the behaviours you expect of them.
Further reading: This MindTools article has some useful advice on getting to the root of poor performance