When an Associate Struggles … COACH!

Performance ManagementOne of the keys to effectively manage and coach your people is to make everyone’s performance visible. The Harvard Business School calls this management approach “radical transparency” and it has been found to deliver superior results.

Our brains are strongly motivated by a sense of fairness. When every individual’s performance is made visible, the way we manage and coach our people becomes highly objective. Everyone can see on your management dashboard how everyone else on the team is performing, and all employees get treated fairly according to their performance.

You can clearly see who is doing well and commend them for the good work they are doing every week. You can also see who is struggling, and who needs additional help and support.

What to do?
Peter Drucker said, “Leaders owe it to the organization and their fellow workers, not to tolerate non-performing people in important jobs”.

Here’s where many team leaders come unstuck. They invest in dashboards to make Key Performance Indicators (KPI), Projects and Tasks visible, which is a great start, but then they fail to close the loop. If you use management dashboards, you must run effective meetings every week to discuss performance and coach your people accordingly.

Good performance needs to be acknowledged with praise and recognition. Don’t assume people know that you value their contribution just because their Goals are “in the green”. Tell them and thank them. Studies have shown that companies who effectively praise and recognize their staff are more profitable.

Poor performance needs to be called out however. It’s not fun, but it has to be done. Problems seldom fix themselves. If you allow poor performance to persist without discussing it and taking visible action to improve it, the team leader is implicitly saying to the entire team that, “Poor performance is OK around here”. If you allow poor performance to be the norm, a culture of mediocrity develops.

Let’s assume that you have honestly fulfilled your side of the bargain and have hired a suitable person for the role, provided them with clear expectations about the core behaviors, key duties, and performance standards they need to deliver. Both of you agree that these standards are meaningful and achievable. You also provide the appropriate tools, training, mentoring and support they need to succeed. If not, then you need to start by fixing yourself first.

How to coach
Talk to the non-performer a non-threatening and supportive way, e.g. “I see the number of sales appointments you booked last week is ‘in the red’ again. What action can we take this week to get this number up where it needs to be? How can I support you?”

Make it clear that you are on their side and that your role is to coach them to be successful. Work together to come up with tangible actions, and capture them as Tasks. Follow up next week to make sure these Tasks got done, and assess their impact on performance.

It is important for both parties to know that this same conversation needs to occur every week until the issue is resolved. If the person makes the necessary improvements and reaches the required performance standard, make a hero out of them. Praise and recognize their progress and make them feel like the winner they are.

If however they cannot make the grade within an agreed time frame, then it is your role as a team leader to do something about it because accountability is meaningless without consequences.

Using the team leader as coach analogy, you only win when your team succeeds. Your job as a team leader is to select, train, coach and support a team of winning players. If someone is unable to perform on your team, you either find them a new position where they can perform, or you owe it to the rest of the team to remove them from the field. Don’t let poor performance fester. Your team is looking to you for leadership.

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James E. McClain is the author of Successful Career Development: A Game Plan, the book upon which some of our training programs are based. He has over 30 years' experience as a corporate HR executive, small business owner with ongoing experience in career development and as a college instructor. His educational background includes a B.S. and Masters degrees Education and Certification in Financial Planning. Our promise is that "you can pay more for training but you can not buy better training." The mission is to deliver the most effective and cost effective training and development programs.

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Posted in Coaching, Leadership, Performance Management

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