Leaders to Leader

Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

Posts Tagged ‘goals and objectives

Six Ways to Turn a Poor Performer Around

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manwithproblememployee

Every manager will have one or two poor performers in their unit or department. They may have inherited these individuals when they assumed the manager’s position and now must deal with them by either turning them around or terminating them for poor performance.

Employees’ negative behaviors often impact their overall performance and mirror their personal skills, attitudes and levels of discipline and perseverance. Many individuals have the “right stuff” to be successful, and only need guidance and direction to focus their abilities and increase and sustain their performance.

It is essential for managers to be able to distinguish between employees who can be rehabilitated and those who should find another company and/or profession.

People who are being unfair to both themselves and the company by only surviving in their job need frank talk about their career options.

On the other hand, employees who are struggling but have the ambition or potential can, with the proper guidance and direction, be turned into above-average, even excellent performers. It is often more sensible financially to work with these individuals rather than recruit and train new people, and also from an ethical perspective these people deserve the opportunity to turn themselves and their work around.

Managers must have a plan and structure to transition struggling people into better-than-average performers. The following steps can be used to turn a poor performer into a highly productive employee:

Define Performance Levels

Many employees are genuinely unaware of what constitutes acceptable behavior and performance. Often a manager will inherit several people who were simply not properly informed as to what is expected of them. Past managers may have dropped the ball, having failed to work with these individuals to develop their potential.

The first step a manager must take is to inform the employee that his or her behavior is unacceptable and that it is negatively impacting their performance. The employee should be educated as to the various levels of performance that are acceptable and a realistic time frame established for rehabilitation and bringing his or her work into line with established standards.

Analyze Behaviors

Managers must take the time to review and analyze the employee’s typical work-related performance and activities in order to identify the specific behaviors that must be eliminated, modified or replaced with more productive efforts.

Such discussions can be sensitive and put the individual on the defensive. He or she must be made to understand that the time and effort being expended is done so with the belief that his or her performance can be improved. They should also understand that if the manager did not think this the case he or she would have been removed from the company. Tactfully done, this should motivate the employee to change and make them more amenable to recommendations to improve their performance. The manager should further make it clear that a failure to improve adequately could well have dire repercussions.

Establish Coaching Plan

The manager, with the employee’s assistance, should develop a realistic and attainable coaching plan to assist him or her to change their behaviors and achieve acceptable levels of performance.

The coaching plan should be confined to a particular time frame with specific objectives met by predetermined points. Each goal and objective should be attainable and easily measured by both parties. The full responsibility for their implementation falls on the employee with the manager providing full support and assistance as required.

Commit to Goals and Objectives

Once a coaching plan is developed and agreed upon by both parties, it is important that both the employee and manager commit themselves to the outlined goals and objectives. While the employee will carry the majority of accountability for the plan, the manager must commit to fulfilling his or her portion of the responsibility as completely as possible if it is to be successful. This may include providing the employee individualized training and reinforcement as well as other commitments of time and energy.

If managers want these individuals to make a positive change, they must actively work with them toward these goals. Developing a plan and leaving these individuals without adequate supervision and support is a recipe for failure—and is unfair. It builds his or her expectations for improved performance and will result in total demoralization when they are unable to make the necessary changes on their own.

Manage Goals and Objectives

The implementation of the coaching plan is the most critical element of resolving negative behaviors and turning an employee’s performance around. Both employee and manager must actively manage the goals and objectives with the employee actively working toward their accomplishment and the manager keeping them focused and on track. This means he or she must positively reinforce the employee’s desirable behaviors and provide redirection when old behaviors resurface. Additionally, as the manager coaches their employee, he or she is providing constructive criticism to guide and direct them in attaining their goals and objectives.

Measure Progress Against Goals

As coaching plans are implemented, managers must measure the employee’s progress at regular intervals and provide full and sufficient feedback in order for them to make needed adjustments. As the employee progresses toward the attainment of his or her goals and objectives, monitoring can be less frequent and intensive.

When the employee happily does meet the stated goals and objectives, the manager should celebrate the individual’s success to reinforce their good work. While some managers will assume they are just doing what is expected of them, any major change is worthy of celebration.

Excerpt: Negative Employee Attitudes: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, 2011) $ 18.95 USD

Related:

Four Primary Leadership Roles and Responsibilities

Leaders Succeed When Employees Are Successful

Three Reasons Why Leaders Fail

Looking into the Crystal Ball

For Additional Information the Author Recommends the Following Books:

Becoming a Leader of Your Own Making: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Dealing with the Challenges of Leadership: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Leadership Styles: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Improving Communication in the Workplace: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

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Performance Management Must Begin With the Manager

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The concept of performance management allows managers to align the actions and activities of their employees with the goals and objectives of senior management in order to achieve the stated outcomes of the company.

It is this linkage that allows each individual employee to work toward the accomplishment of mutual goals and objectives.

Many managers make the common mistake of assuming that because they understand the goals and objectives assigned to them, everyone else does as well. This is often where many performance problems occur, as in terms of thinking and action there is a gap between what was planned as an overall company goal and what the unit or department is actually doing. The company might have established a specific goal while employees are working in a fashion wholly unrelated to that goal, which will assure that it is not met.

Managers are the liaison between senior leadership and their people. Often there is no sense of connection between a company’s goals and the actions of individual employees. They continue to perform in their usual fashion without achieving the desired outcomes stated by upper management. The role of the manager is to align the actions of his or her employees with the goals and objectives of the company.

Effective performance management must begin with the manager. Before they can communicate the goals and objectives of management, he or she must clearly understand both what is desired and the means to achieve it. Unless this information is clearly communicated to the manager and he or she comprehends and understands what is desired, there will be a gap in the system that will result in deficient results.

The problem is that in many organizations there is too great a disparity between plans and results. Many employees and managers develop annual plans and then ignore them during the course of the year; there is no actual implementation. They are instead an exercise that management requires, without any real utility or connection to day-to-day work.

Before managers can manage the performance of their people, they must personally commit to it and the results they wish to achieve. Once they have done so, they can then focus their efforts in the following areas:

Clarifying Goals

Managers must take the time to create a two-way dialogue with their people and clearly communicate the company’s goals to them. Employees should be encouraged to question, challenge, interpret and clarify these goals in their minds. This process gives them ownership of the goals, which makes them more concrete and meaningful and increases the likelihood they will be accomplished.

Discussing Ways to Meet Goals

Once employees understand the individual company goals and objectives, managers should discuss the specific ways they can meet them.

These discussions should be detailed and explicit in order to align employees’ strategies and plans with the company goals. Managers should specify the precise changes employees have to make to align their individual behaviors and activities with the company goals.

Employees should be informed of what is now expected of them and how they are expected to meet those expectations. As goals were clarified through encouraging questioning, challenging and interpreting, similar brainstorming should be encouraged to determine the best ways to achieve company goals and objectives.

Following Through to Align Behaviors with Outcomes

The critical link in performance management is the manager’s commitment to follow through with each individual employee to ensure that their work is aligned with the stated outcomes outlined in the company’s goals and objectives. This is where many performance management programs fall short: goals and methodologies are discussed with the unit or department, but individual employees are allowed to backslide into old habits that hinder achieving the company’s goals.

Managers follow through by first observing each individual employee’s professional behavior, discussing the results he or she is achieving, and supporting their efforts with additional training and coaching to keep them on focus.

Excerpt: Performance Management: The Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 18.95 USD

Related:

Five Critical Steps to Maximize Performance

Focusing Employees on Common Goals

Plans Must Be Rooted in Past Performance

Focusing Your Employees on Future Performance

For Additional Information the Author Recommends the Following Books:

Strengthening Performance: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series

Planning to Maximize Performance: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series

Maximizing Financial Performance: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Performance Plans Create Results and Maximizes Performance

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planning

A performance plan differs from a conventional plan in that it is a proactive document. It is designed for continuous use throughout the year as a guide and reference tool to direct the leader and his or her unit’s activities. The primary purpose of a performance plan is to create results and maximize performance.

Managers often produce an annual performance plan only to give senior management what they want to see. Leaders view performance planning as an opportunity to review and analyze actual past performance. It gives them the means to identify ways to improve their personal and organizational unit’s overall performance and productivity.

Managers as leaders actively use their performance plan to drive the unit’s as well as their own performance. They continually reference their performance plan as a roadmap throughout the year to guide and direct their activities and courses of action as well as those of their subordinates.

Leaders work and plan under the direction of senior management. They define overall strategic company goals and plans. Senior management also forms operational and tactical strategies directing the company’s activities during the year. Typically leaders are responsible for specific aspects of the operational and tactical plans. Their performance plans are directly linked to their assigned goals and objectives. How leaders accomplish these goals and objectives is self-defined. This is where they are given an opportunity to shine.

As was discussed in the previous lesson, leaders are driven by a vision of what is possible, not expected. In formulating a performance plan, leaders begin with an initial preparation before it is formally written and executed. This preliminary process includes:

Collecting and Correlating Data

Leaders collect and correlate the information and data they developed during a review of their organizational unit’s prior performance. This provides a complete picture of the unit’s successes and weaknesses. It helps pinpoint how successes can be capitalized on, and identifies the problems and issues that must be resolved to maximize the unit’s performance.

Leaders ensure their plans coincide with their vision. This is necessary if their vision is to be attained. They analyze and make sure plans can be incorporated into their overall goals and objectives.

The information collected from these two planning activities provides reliable insight and direction. It shapes how performance plans are to be formulated and becomes the foundation for all future performance plans.

Brainstorming

Leaders obtain input and feedback from all members of their unit. This strategy works to bring individual members “on board.” It greatly increases the probability they will accept the plan and implement the necessary strategies to make it successful.

Leaders use brainstorming to get reliable feedback. They use this feedback to creatively approach the development of their performance plan. They need to “think outside of the box” to view their goals and objectives creatively and without bias. Brainstorming accomplishes this by encouraging entrepreneurial thinking. Then leaders can easily define the issues concerning maximizing unit performance from various perspectives.

The purpose of brainstorming is not only to identify ways to achieve goals and complete tasks. It is used as a method to seek out information and ideas for exceeding normal expectations. Leaders always look for ways to optimize performance and results. Effective brainstorming also helps them improve budgetary performance as it maximizes the use of assigned resources.

Formulating Plans

Throughout the preparation and brainstorming phases of planning, the performance plan begins to take shape. Senior management has assigned the overall goals and objectives. The feedback and the analysis of the organizational unit details what needs to be accomplished. From this information, assumptions can be made that will form the basis of the plan.

Leaders clarify the specific direction the organizational unit will take. The steps needed to achieve this direction are carefully outlined and detailed. Each step is then formulated into specific objectives along with the activities required to attain the chosen course of direction.

From this information, leaders assign specific tasks and responsibilities to each individual unit member. These assignments become part of the performance plan, assuring that all objectives will be accomplished.

Leaders make sure each subordinate assigned to a task or responsibility has the necessary resources to be successful. Additionally, each task and responsibility includes established milestones so subordinates understand exactly what they need to do, by when. Milestones provide leaders with performance standards to ensure assigned tasks and responsibilities are accomplished in a timely fashion. This allows for effective managing of the performance plan as well as making modifications when needed.

Formalizing Plans

The final step of performance planning is to formalize a written plan. This becomes the actual management tool that guides and directs the organizational unit in the accomplishment of its goals and objectives.

The degree to which plans need to be refined will vary according to company standards. However, leaders make sure their plan clearly and precisely details the goals and objectives of the entire organizational unit. They write these in clear, easily understood language. Plans also include a timeline plotting each task, responsibility and milestone. Each time segment details the individual(s) responsible for specific tasks and their accomplishment and defines the resources to be allocated. All supporting data collected throughout the planning process is included to substantiate the plan, as well as the list of assumptions the plan is based upon.

Excerpt: Planning to Maximize Performance: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 16.95 USD

Related:

Plans Must Be Rooted in Past Performance

Measure What Needs to Be Measured

Performance Driven Leaders Must Establish Clear Employee Expectations

Decision-Making Begins When an Action Needs to Be Taken

For Additional Information the Author Recommends the Following Books:

Maximizing Financial Performance

Strengthening Leadership Performance

Performance Management

Problem Solving

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Evaluations Have to Be Consistent with Leadership’s Overall Direction

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smallgroup3

As organizations shift and adapt to forces of change, leaders must also evolve their personal methods—including how they evaluate their employees’ performance. Evaluations have to be consistent with leadership’s overall direction as well as the motivational methods employed by other individual leaders. They should enhance, not undermine, the progress of the organization.

There is a sizeable gulf between leaders who build empowered organizations and those who employ more traditional and antiquated evaluative methods. This has resulted in a source of conflict causing internal dissention and personal rifts that run counter to the goals of the leader and the organization.

As organizations evolve, new methods of performance evaluation must be designed and incorporated so that employees feel they “are” the organization. When this is achieved, employees will both better understand what it will take to accomplish goals and be more inspired to work toward them.

Thus performance evaluation methods need to adapt with the organization to involve rather than alienate the individual employee. Rather than focus on past mistakes and failures, the evaluation moves the organization forward through the development and increased competence of its individual members. In this manner growth is enhanced and ongoing.

Traditional performance evaluation methods typically measure individual employees’ performance based on a rigid set of standards and parameters. These are used to evaluate their work against a job description rather than gauging the employee’s involvement, contribution and personal growth as factors in the larger picture of achieving the organization’s goals and objectives. With this in mind, leaders must look at the method by which they evaluate employee performance, and ensure it is designed to:

Bridge Performance

In an empowered organization, employees cannot be simply evaluated upon whether or not they are working within the parameters of a specific job description. As the organization becomes increasingly empowered and evolves in the use of workgroups and teams, job descriptions become increasingly irrelevant evaluative tools. Performance increasingly shifts away from the individual and to the group or team as employees work toward mutual goals as defined by the shared vision.

In this light, leaders must evaluate the performance of the organization he or she directs and determine how well the individual employee fits into the overall picture. All performance is interconnected; an individual is either a strong or weak link in the entire process. They are evaluated according to how well they work within this environment. Leaders must use the evaluative process to make the individual employee’s work more meaningful by expanding their understanding of how they fit into the organization and how their job can lead to personal self-improvement.

Evaluate Employee Contributions

Rather than evaluate individual employee’s performance against a specific job assignment, leaders must view it in the context of their contribution to the entire organization. In this regard, leaders demonstrate to employees in a very real way that their ideas, insights and personal contributions are both valued and needed if the organization is to succeed.

As empowerment deepens in the organizational environment, a synergy develops within each unit that leads to organizational cohesiveness. Once developed, leaders can easily evaluate how well the individual works and operates within this environment and whether they adapt to or fight the transition.

Provide Guidance for Growth

Rather than focus on past performance, leaders should use the counseling process to give their employees guidance in developing their individual capabilities. This is designed to provide individuals with a road toward increased competence, personal growth and satisfaction. The focus should be on future development and direction that contributes to increased overall levels of productivity required by the organization. In this context, employees understand what is expected of them as they contribute to the future success of the organization.

Increase Personal Involvement

In empowered organizations, the performance evaluation is not an “us against them” proposition, but a process where employees are involved in the improvement of their own performance. The ratings and conflict associated with traditional performance evaluations should be reduced if not eliminated as employees feel an increase in freedom and self-determination through meaningful involvement in their evaluation.

When the focus of the evaluation shifts to the performance of the organization and the employee’s contribution toward the accomplishment of mutual goals and objectives, it becomes clear to most what is needed to improve. This is different than focusing on the faults and problems associated with individual performance.

Individuals want to be part of something bigger, and will work harder toward the attainment of a mutual goal. This is clearly demonstrated when sports teams comprised of average players are able to win championships over more talented teams. The mutual goal of the organization brings out the best in each individual when he or she works with the team. Strong synergy and cohesiveness spurring individual performance on to greater heights is not just a sports phenomenon: it can take effect in any organization.

Related:

When Evaluating Performance Consider the Intangibles

Focusing Your Employees on Future Performance

Should Accountability Be a Primary Priority?

Excerpt: Strengthening Leadership Performance: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 18.95 USD

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Planning as a Means to Generate, Oversee and Measure Results

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manDelegating

Most corporations require leaders to produce an annual plan to project possible future results. Many leaders tend to undertake this assignment with little or no enthusiasm even though it is necessary to forge new paths to generating positive, successful outcomes. Once completed, most annual plans sit on the shelf until the next planning cycle. Many times the rationale is that people are too involved and overwhelmed with daily activities to follow their plan.

Effective leaders tend to view planning as a means to generate, oversee and measure results. Planning gives leaders time to consider how they can improve their own as well as overall workplace performance. It allows leaders to reflect on ways to stretch their employees’ abilities in order to make them a more viable resource for generating and enhancing long-term results. In order to get the best results possible from their leadership efforts, leaders need to prepare for them.

Leaders must recognize that preparing for results does have its challenges, and be aware of them before beginning their next planning cycle.

During planning and budgetary reviews, leaders sometimes develop unreliable projected numbers and assumptions. It is all too easy to develop projections without specific facts to back them up, yet obtaining positive end results relies on sound forecasting.

Many leaders fail to invest the needed effort to review past performance, and this deficiency tends to affect their end outcomes. Some also fall short in taking the necessary time to effectively base future projections and assumptions upon what their organizational units have actually achieved in the past, which distorts expectations.

Obtaining results implies that plans and budgets not be developed in a void. Effective leaders realize that they must build on past successes and determine why and how past failures occurred. They know that to increase results it is essential to plan for strengthening weak and non-performing areas.

Leaders can only accomplish this by thoroughly reviewing past performance in all areas in order to link plans to where the organizational unit currently stands. Performance reviews allow leaders to accurately project their organizational unit’s performance forward in incremental steps. This is the only realistic method of achieving and sustaining growth.

As leaders begin the planning process to increase performance and results, they need to address five specific areas that tend to create the greatest challenges:

Faulty Assumptions

Every plan that is designed to increase results needs to be based upon a series of assumptions. Consisting of future and anticipated variables that impact the actual performance of the plan, assumptions include economic conditions, sales and production forecasts, as well as anticipated major orders.

If assumptions are inaccurate, plans will be worthless and future results will not be realized. For example, if a plan is based upon 10% growth when in reality the economy is causing a 10% decline, everything in the plan is based upon an inaccurate assumption.

When developing their plans, leaders must focus on carefully creating, listing and detailing accurate and realistic assumptions. As conditions change during the year, reviewing assumptions becomes a necessary procedure in order to adjust them to actual conditions. This enables leaders to quickly alter and adapt their plans throughout the year, ensuring the likelihood of obtaining the results they want.

Inaccurate Information

To get results, the development and use of accurate information within the planning process is essential. Accurate information is one of the most important aspects of planning and the most significant step in the plan’s implementation process. Leaders must take the opportunity to examine every aspect of their organizational unit’s past performance. This includes reviewing past plans and budgets against actual performance.

Results-oriented leaders understand what worked in the past and why. They identify areas for improvement, revision, modification or an increased workforce. They then focus on underlying causes that tend to influence or precipitate inadequate employee performance. Leaders who make it a point to conduct exhaustive performance reviews are able to produce accurate information and data, which helps to generate higher levels of results over shorter periods of time.

Once leaders produce a comprehensive review, it becomes much easier to update and maintain their information with a higher degree of accuracy. Leaders use the planning process to audit their information and insure its reliability and accuracy.

Pitfalls to Effective Plan Development

The first major planning pitfall that definitely affects positive end results lies in leaders choosing to create new strategies by simply duplicating previous annual plans with one or two selective changes. Most often changes include simply altering numbers to reflect current conditions. The completed plan is then submitted to senior management. These plans have little value in terms of results-oriented direction or particular action steps to follow.

A second major pitfall is found in writing plans from a “backward perspective.” This is where plans are made according to where leaders want to go, rather than on where they should be going. Strategies are developed without regard to the specific facts, data, timelines and information needed to ensure they are accurate and realistic.

All pertinent information and related data supporting various desired outcomes must be included when generating plans, with all other information that tends to conflict with the desired outcomes omitted.

Both pitfalls are attempts to short-circuit the planning process or avoid it, and greatly reduce the chances of obtaining the results leaders need to generate. When this happens, leaders fail to meet their responsibilities to themselves, employees, associates, senior management and stockholders.

Impossible Plan Timetables, Allotments and Factors

How plans are scheduled can have a major impact on whether or not results are obtained. Many leaders often assume they can achieve more than is realistically possible to attain. They tend to insert and carry over expectations of impossible timelines and deadlines for employees to follow and meet.

Performance plans should stretch each organizational unit and members’ capabilities. Time allotments to move processes and actions along toward achieving goals and objectives must be realistic. Additional time must be factored in for unanticipated events that will inevitably occur during the year.

It is essential for leaders not to under-plan, where employees are not pushed to perform. Equally as important they should not over-plan, where employees are constantly placed under stress to meet deadlines. To get better results, leaders must consider the need to balance their plan’s time requirements, workload criteria and expectations.

Failing to View Performance Plans as Positive Management Tools

Often leaders will produce required plans and forget about them until the next ones are due. It is a serious mistake to view planning as an impediment to their work and daily responsibilities.

Results-oriented leaders appreciate how and why performance plans are powerful management tools. Plans guide and direct their actions throughout the year toward the accomplishment of their goals and objectives, which always move them to securing higher levels of workplace results.

Results-oriented leaders focus on taking their plans and breaking them down into smaller monthly plans, which can be easily monitored and altered. Leaders also make certain to generate smaller step-by-step plans for every individual employee. This process tends to link both time and individual performance toward the accomplishment of common goals and objectives.

Planning is a continuous, ongoing process. Performance plans need to be continually revisited, modified and adapted to reflect actual conditions. Situations change and performance plans should allow leaders to readily anticipate and adapt to fluctuations, speedups and slowdowns, as well as unforeseen occurrences.

Related:

Looking into the Crystal Ball

The Need to Test Opinions Against the Facts

The Mastery of Details is an Integral Part of Leadership

Focusing Your Employees on Future Performance

Excerpt: Becoming a Leader of Your Own Making (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 16.95 USD

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Six Ways to Turn a Poor Performer Around

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Every manager will have one or two poor performers in their unit or department. They may have inherited these individuals when they assumed the manager’s position and now must deal with them by either turning them around or terminating them for poor performance.

Employees’ negative behaviors often impact their overall performance and mirror their personal skills, attitudes and levels of discipline and perseverance. Many individuals have the “right stuff” to be successful, and only need guidance and direction to focus their abilities and increase and sustain their performance.

It is essential for managers to be able to distinguish between employees who can be rehabilitated and those who should find another company and/or profession.

People who are being unfair to both themselves and the company by only surviving in their job need frank talk about their career options.

On the other hand, employees who are struggling but have the ambition or potential can, with the proper guidance and direction, be turned into above-average, even excellent performers. It is often more sensible financially to work with these individuals rather than recruit and train new people, and also from an ethical perspective these people deserve the opportunity to turn themselves and their work around.

Managers must have a plan and structure to transition struggling people into better-than-average performers. The following steps can be used to turn a poor performer into a highly productive employee:

Define Performance Levels

Many employees are genuinely unaware of what constitutes acceptable behavior and performance. Often a manager will inherit several people who were simply not properly informed as to what is expected of them. Past managers may have dropped the ball, having failed to work with these individuals to develop their potential.

The first step a manager must take is to inform the employee that his or her behavior is unacceptable and that it is negatively impacting their performance. The employee should be educated as to the various levels of performance that are acceptable and a realistic time frame established for rehabilitation and bringing his or her work into line with established standards.

Analyze Behaviors

Managers must take the time to review and analyze the employee’s typical work-related performance and activities in order to identify the specific behaviors that must be eliminated, modified or replaced with more productive efforts.

Such discussions can be sensitive and put the individual on the defensive. He or she must be made to understand that the time and effort being expended is done so with the belief that his or her performance can be improved. They should also understand that if the manager did not think this the case he or she would have been removed from the company. Tactfully done, this should motivate the employee to change and make them more amenable to recommendations to improve their performance. The manager should further make it clear that a failure to improve adequately could well have dire repercussions.

Establish Coaching Plan

The manager, with the employee’s assistance, should develop a realistic and attainable coaching plan to assist him or her to change their behaviors and achieve acceptable levels of performance.

The coaching plan should be confined to a particular time frame with specific objectives met by predetermined points. Each goal and objective should be attainable and easily measured by both parties. The full responsibility for their implementation falls on the employee with the manager providing full support and assistance as required.

Commit to Goals and Objectives

Once a coaching plan is developed and agreed upon by both parties, it is important that both the employee and manager commit themselves to the outlined goals and objectives. While the employee will carry the majority of accountability for the plan, the manager must commit to fulfilling his or her portion of the responsibility as completely as possible if it is to be successful. This may include providing the employee individualized training and reinforcement as well as other commitments of time and energy.

If managers want these individuals to make a positive change, they must actively work with them toward these goals. Developing a plan and leaving these individuals without adequate supervision and support is a recipe for failure—and is unfair. It builds his or her expectations for improved performance and will result in total demoralization when they are unable to make the necessary changes on their own.

Manage Goals and Objectives

The implementation of the coaching plan is the most critical element of resolving negative behaviors and turning an employee’s performance around. Both employee and manager must actively manage the goals and objectives with the employee actively working toward their accomplishment and the manager keeping them focused and on track. This means he or she must positively reinforce the employee’s desirable behaviors and provide redirection when old behaviors resurface. Additionally, as the manager coaches their employee, he or she is providing constructive criticism to guide and direct them in attaining their goals and objectives.

Measure Progress Against Goals

As coaching plans are implemented, managers must measure the employee’s progress at regular intervals and provide full and sufficient feedback in order for them to make needed adjustments. As the employee progresses toward the attainment of his or her goals and objectives, monitoring can be less frequent and intensive.

When the employee happily does meet the stated goals and objectives, the manager should celebrate the individual’s success to reinforce their good work. While some managers will assume they are just doing what is expected of them, any major change is worthy of celebration.

Excerpt: Negative Employee Attitudes: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, 2011) $ 18.95 USD

If you would like to learn more about how to manage negative employees, refer to Negative Employee Attitudes: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series. This training skill-pack features eight key interrelated concepts, each with their own discussion points and training activity. It is ideal as an informal training tool for coaching or personal development. It can also be used as a handbook and guide for group training discussions. Click here to learn more.

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Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog | Catalog| 800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

January 31, 2012 at 10:48 am

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