A client was mentioning his frustration with a fairly new employee, when these words were uttered “He seems disorganized, after one year.“
This person had 5 years of experience in a similar role and was hired with high expectations to come onboard, quickly learn the job, and start taking on more client work and responsibility to free up the owner’s time.
But you may have been in this situation before.
The person takes a bit more time than expected to “learn” the job (or at least your systems and procedures). And he does the activities of the job adequately, but doesn’t achieve the results you expected. Or take on a larger role or more responsibility that you would like.
So you spend more time monitoring and coordinating work, and feel like you still can’t delegate anything off your to-do list.
He is a stable employee in the role but the growth and impact is not what you wanted at one year.
So you are questioning the root cause of the performance gap:
- Are the expectations clear?
- Does this person want the role I thought I hired him for?
- Will training help?
- Is this even the right person?
This is a challenge for even the most seasoned People Coach.
To uncover the true cause of the gap between what an employee is doing and what you expect in the role, you need to “evaluate for job fit.”
To assist in this detective work, I have created an article and template to guide you.
Download the “Job Fit Performance Maximizer” here.
Zenger Folkman report that employees who are the most satisfied and committed work for leaders who do 4 crucial “behaviors that focus on achieving challenging goals”
- Inspire them to high levels of effort
- Energize them to achieve exceptional results
- Create an atmosphere of continual improvement
- Skillful at getting them to stretch for goals that go beyond what they originally thoughts was possible
BAM- that sounds like a recipe for some high performing work!
To put it another way:
- These managers have a People Plan for each person with mutually beneficial projects and work that are designed to be challenging.
- This “stretch” work naturally develops the team member, and keeps her energized and inspired (and doing her best work).
- Employees feels that “the company provides excellent learning and growth opportunities for my own development.” (This is the key to keeping employees from looking for another job.)
- The positive coaching provided by the manager creates a team culture to perform at a high level, and this positive “peer pressure” continually reinforces the positive behaviors and outcomes.
This is the magic atmosphere where employees are engaged… performing with discretionary extra effort.
The most successful employers have 70-80% engaged employees, the worst 10-20%.
What if 7x more employees were terrific at their job- would that make a different to your team atmosphere and achievement?
If you want your department, your location, your organization to succeed- the key is managers who can positive coach and challenge the team to outperform every day.
“Doing performance coaching right means 42% higher productivity.” (Bersin report: High-Impact Performance Management: Using Goals to Focus the 21st-Century Workforce)
The jury is not still out, the key to the care and feeding of great employees is coaching them clearly, positively and often.
In fact, based on a recent survey, the Zenger Folkman group (authors of the Exceptional Leadership book) that employees had a preference for receiving corrective feedback 3 times the level of their preference for receiving positive feedback!
Are you avoiding that corrective feedback? You are actually doing more harm ignoring your staff than just being honest and coaching them where they need it.
Some Zenger Folkman statistics- based on the best and worst leaders (as givers of feedback):
|Intent to quit
|Feel fairly treated
If you avoid giving feedback (corrective or positive) then this has a dramatic negative impact on the performance of your team.
What should they prioritize? How can they know how to improve? How can they feel challenged?
You can evaluate your own preferences for giving and receiving feedback with this short assessment.
If you find that you are avoiding giving feedback, you may want to develop these skills to enhance your team’s performance and ultimately your job performance, too.
My last article (Always a Crisis- Part 1) gave an example of “Chase” – a newly promoted supervisor who is struggling with his promotion to a new role.
I outlined the three main causes of performance gaps and four action steps to uncover the underlying cause and related solutions.
Once you identify the source and jointly develop a performance action plan, we will need to coach weekly towards improvement.
- One possible outcome is that the person is making progress, although possibly not as fast as you would like. Be patient and keep working with someone who is trying their best.
- Another possible outcome is that there is very little noticeable improvement in the first 30 days. Now you have to determine if this is a motivation issue or an ability issue.
Ability scenario – After about 60 days if you continue to witness that the person is “always in crisis,” the solution may be to move back to a role that has a short time span (daily tasks, tasks in natural sequence) rather than important projects.
Sometimes the solution is temporary – scale back the scope of the job with smaller “bites” to allow this person progress in competencies that take time to develop. Sometimes even with a slower development, this person make lack the necessary competencies.
In addition to weekly coaching, a monthly status update (end of month 1, 2, 3) is important to discuss progress and revise your action plan. It is important that you recognize effort and improvement, even if it is not as fast as you desire.
Motivation scenario– Sometimes you find that even with a great training plan, he does not make the expected effort. For example, the person does not complete the training action items or make seem to attempt changes to work habits or other behaviors. This is a symptom of a lack of motivation—it is possible he can do it, but chooses not to. No amount of coaching will improve the athlete if they are not “doing the reps.” Then this is a separate conversation.
If progress is not being made, then a crucial conversation needs to be clear on the potential consequences (change in role, move to another job, loss of job) before it happens.
This is not an easy situation to resolve, and requires a thoughtful and candid approach with a willingness of both parties to work together to identify the source and solutions.
Done well, even with a change back to his old job, you can retain and engage Chase as a valuable team member.
Done poorly, Chase loses engagement and will likely leave in a year or less. Or worse, you ignore the situation and Chase flounders in the job longer, losing his motivation and not providing the performance you need to serve your customers and the rest of the team.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
“Chase left our conversation abruptly. Across the plant floor, he had spotted a problem and rushed to make a correction. He was apologetic on his return. “Sorry, but this is why I called you today. I feel like a two armed octopus. There are eight things that need to happen, but I can only work on two problems at a time. Things get out of control about fifteen minutes into the day. And they never stop. At the end of the day, I look at my boss’ list of projects and the important things never seem to get worked on. There is always a crisis.” (Excerpt from Tom Foster management blog, 11/28/14)
Do you have an employee who is struggles with performing in their new role (either a new hire or an existing person who you gave a different responsibilities)?
How do you think “Chase” is feeling? Delighted this new position is overwhelming? Going home feeling a sense of accomplishment? Feeling like a success? Most likely Chase is disappointed and frustrated, as he wants to do a great job and feel competent.
After all, you thought he had what it takes to this this job well. And you hold the keys to finding out if this is a temporary training issue or a mis-match of his attributes to what is required to fill the role.
If you have a Chase on staff, I recommend evaluating for job fit through the following steps, and then jointly outlining a plan to give him the training, tools, and support to potential succeed.
If you both make an effort to develop his knowledge, skills, and competencies, he has a fair chance to do well.
Three main causes of performance gap, based on ability:
- Person isn’t ready—needs more skill development
- Person needs systems- may excel if given a structured process to plan and monitor work
- Person isn’t a fit to job role- lacks key competencies that are difficult to develop in short term
Your Action Steps
- Evaluate for job fit- identify the cause of gap
- If coachable gaps, jointly create and implement a training action plan with Chase
- Develop and coach on process and systems
- Coach weekly towards improvement. If slow progress be patient and keep going. If there is no noticeable improvement or it is not lasting, more intervention is needed.
See next article for tips on a 90 day coaching plan for performance improvement “Always a Crisis— Part 2”
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
The Balanced Scorecard Institute calls it “cascading goals.”
I love this term, because you can visualize how the organization has a strategy and a big goal for the year, and important bits cascade down to departments (sales, customer service, production, even accounting). Then the department manager lets each employee know how they contribute to this department goal.
A great example I heard last year at a seminar was how a chain restaurant made corporate goals tangible and clearly understandable to every employee.
The general manager had a goal of 5% increase in revenue this year (to achieve the corporate goal of 5% increased revenue at same locations.) She then computed what this meant for the hostess, servers, kitchen staff, and even the “busboys.”
The Hostess knew that the team needed to reduce wait time (goal- less than 10 minutes at peak hours) so they did not lose diners due to a long line. She worked with the busboys to clear dishes so that diners left faster after eating (goal- 2 minutes) and clean up tables for a new party (within 2 minutes).
Servers knew that they needed to increase their average sale per diner 5%- which equaled an extra appetizer or dessert for every 3 tables. Servers also concentrated on expediting orders, response to requests (ketchup, please) and rushing food to tables to decrease overall customer time at the table.
I think you get the picture… when employees have simple Key Performance Indicators, they understand their purpose, the results to achieve, and the priority actions that would achieve those results.
Then the restaurant manager would share daily and weekly results (average sale per diner, average time per table, table wait time at peak, etc) so that employees could see if they were on track to meet monthly goals. A simple visual dashboard of these KPI was posted in the employee area, and reviewed with weekly and monthly update and celebration meetings.
Different shifts and days even had a friendly competition going, and servers would stop to ask their KPI results after a shift!
After a few months, revenue increased 10% over the prior year, and better yet, customer satisfaction scores also increased significantly.
After all, those KPI weren’t just good for the restaurant, but also what customers want: no wait for a table, faster and more responsive service, being offered the specials of the day.
Here is a great free guide from Gazelles & Rhythm Systems:
5 Tips All Executive Teams Must Know About KPIs
Learn more about how Expectations, goals and KPI dashboards work as part of your People Plan:
Clarifying Expectations section of our free resources
Image courtesy of Sura Nualpradid at FreeDigitalPhotos.com