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:
- Resentment, anger, and getting even.
- Overwork and overcommitment.
- Lack of clear direction.
- Unmatched skill sets.
- Distractions from meddling bosses.
- Organizational culture that accepts mediocrity.
20 ways to confront performance issues:
- Begin with the person not the performance. People aren’t machines.
- Manage your emotions. Your feelings are obvious.
- Act quickly. Delay invites mediocrity.
- Never allow a first conversation to be an accusation.
- Choose engagement over compliance.
- Become a partner not a superior.
- Commit to their success or begin the process of setting them lose.
- Assume responsibility. Blame invites defensiveness. Own your responsibility to develop their best.
- Use “I” more than “you.”
- Ask them to assess their performance, first.
- Don’t use job descriptions as a crutch. Official documents create distance not connection.
- Explain their unique and essential contribution. Describe how declining performance lessens meaningful impact.
- Speak hard truths optimistically. “You have more in you.”
- Avoid adversarial tones and terminology.
- Explore “with” before explaining “to.” You don’t know the whole story.
- Don’t rely on leadership by decree. Disconnected leaders use pressure. “This is going to stop.” Coercion leads to manipulation which leads to deception.
- Connect. The more difficult the conversation, the more important connection becomes. Authority and position hinder connection.
- Describe failure kindly but clearly. Pulling punches leads to mediocrity.
- Define the win.
- 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:
Confronting the Tough Stuff
Coaching and Counseling for Outstanding Job Performance