20 Positive Ways to Confront Poor Performance

Jan 24, 2019

By Dan Rockwell

Lousy leaders whine about mediocrity, but they can’t or won’t have tough conversations. Excellence is a function of confronting performance issues. Call people to rise up or they will leave or lay down.

Exceptional organizations consist of exceptional people. Talent develops when we confront poor performance.

6 reasons performance deteriorates:

  1. Resentment, anger, and getting even.
  2. Overwork and overcommitment.
  3. Lack of clear direction.
  4. Unmatched skill sets.
  5. Distractions from meddling bosses.
  6. Organizational culture that accepts mediocrity.

20 ways to confront performance issues:

  1. Begin with the person not the performance. People aren’t machines.
  2. Manage your emotions. Your feelings are obvious.
  3. Act quickly. Delay invites mediocrity.
  4. Never allow a first conversation to be an accusation.
  5. Choose engagement over compliance.
  6. Become a partner not a superior.
  7. Commit to their success or begin the process of setting them lose.
  8. Assume responsibility. Blame invites defensiveness. Own your responsibility to develop their best.
  9. Use “I” more than “you.”
  10. Ask them to assess their performance, first.
  11. Don’t use job descriptions as a crutch. Official documents create distance not connection.
  12. Explain their unique and essential contribution. Describe how declining performance lessens meaningful impact.
  13. Speak hard truths optimistically. “You have more in you.”
  14. Avoid adversarial tones and terminology.
  15. Explore “with” before explaining “to.” You don’t know the whole story.
  16. Don’t rely on leadership by decree. Disconnected leaders use pressure. “This is going to stop.” Coercion leads to manipulation which leads to deception.
  17. Connect. The more difficult the conversation, the more important connection becomes. Authority and position hinder connection.
  18. Describe failure kindly but clearly. Pulling punches leads to mediocrity.
  19. Define the win.
  20. Develop a clear path forward. Talk more about the future than the past.

I recently had a “you fell short” conversation. When it ended the person said, “I’m encouraged.” Why?

  • Compassion coupled with high expectation
  • An established relationship of trust
  • Respect for their talent and contribution
  • Optimism about their future
  • A clear path forward that included opportunity

Here are two AMA seminars that can help you deal more effectively with poor performers:

About the Author(s)

Dan Rockwell is author of the blog Leadership Freak (http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com). He is a social media and leadership consultant and the leader of a nonprofit organization in central Pennsylvania. Contact him at [email protected]