Determining the cause of a performance issue can be like being a detective– here is a list of 11 major reasons employees “don’t do the job” with possible solutions.
1. They don’t know what to do
2. They think they are doing it
Solution: I read many job descriptions—hundreds per year from dozens of organizations—rarely do they clarify for me the specific job activities and key results areas, much less how the job will be measured. It is difficult to hold someone accountable to results when the manager has not made it crystal clear what those results should be and what s/he has to do to get those results. Otherwise employees just take their best guess and do what seems to be the most urgent.
3. They think something else is more important
Solution: A great survey report showed that employees only agree with managers on 1 out of 3 priorities! Frequent coaching and follow up makes sure that what a person is working on is the highest priority for the job and department. An employee does the best she can reading the tea leaves to guess what her manager thinks is priority. Don’t make them guess… also, remember employees often don’t have the broader view or much information outside of their own activities (and yes, the more they do the better decisions they will make.)
4. They don’t know how to do it
Solution: Work with employee to identify skill or competency to enhance with training, create a training plan with a timeline and hold employee accountable to stick to the plan (even if it means reminding her manager to schedule the time or resources).
5. They are uncomfortable doing it
Solution: Sometimes a little training can increase someone’s confidence and they become “comfortable” with the task and then perform it regularly. More likely this is a symptom of job fit—someone’s personality traits or competencies are not aligned with those required to excel in the job. A classic example is “asking for the sale”— a person who is cooperative (lower assertive) can be trained for years on sales techniques and given scripts, but he is always uncomfortable closing. For job fit, the remedy is to change the job duties to ones that correspond with the person’s strengths and attributes.
6. They lack the competency needed to do it
Solution: Depending on the type of competency, the person may benefit from more training and development. However, many competencies are a function of personality traits that are ingrained and difficult to change even with extensive training. For example, “planning and organizing” is a set of traits and habits that your employee may not have and will be challenged to overcome in a role that requires tracking and pacing their work on month-long project. In many cases, the solution is finding a better job fit for the incumbent’s competencies.
Source: Feedback/ Recognition
7. They can do it but don’t want to
8. They are rewarded for not doing it
9. They are not rewarded when they do it
Solution: This is fundamental psychology. People do what is measured and recognized and rewarded. If they are not rewarded (or worse, “punished”) for doing something, most people stop doing it. Sales people don’t like to do paperwork—but they also don’t want to be reminded that they were late 9 of the last 10 weeks—this is powerful feedback.
Often the signals sent by managers are unintended. Do you reward your poor performers by giving extra work to others that you can depend on? Do you remember to praise and even publicly recognize the team that worked last weekend to finish up a project?
10. They don’t know why they should do it
Solution: Some people will blindly follow rules, but most want to know the “why” behind something that they are asked to do. It they believe a task or process is x (insert label here: low importance, arbitrary, a waste of time, or just plain stupid), no amount of training will effect a change in behavior. You might get begrudging compliance but that is about it. To get commitment, you have to explain the “why” to change the belief. (Until they believe his IS important, worth my time, etc.)
11. They think their way is better.
Solution: Read the solution above… plus this often happens when you ask someone who is good/ comfortable with the “old way” and now you have a “new way.” And in the beginning, the old way is better since an employee is more comfortable and competent in the old way. A big part of culture change and process change is to overcome the belief that the old way is better.
A key personality trait is openness to new experiences and some people are not. They will cling to the things they know how to do. As a manager you will need to support and coach these employees through the pain and fear that comes with change. Recognize that this is more deep seeded than just a training issue, but a consistent personality trait or a cognitive filter (belief) and be patient and supportive, and work through changing the belief, not just behavior.
As a client’s manager once stated, “if we have 100 people then we have 100 different personalities.” It’s your job as a manager to figure out what is the cause and the solution that works for all the unique individuals on your team.
Read the Short Guide
Over the years, you built your small business on step at a time. Your hired more staff to sell and service your clients, then you added an office manager and/or an accounting manager. With each hire you expected to get “freed up” to act like an owner, not an employee.
Yet you are “crazy busy” every day– getting sales, monitoring if work is done, leading improvement projects, fighting fires, and otherwise tending to the daily work in your business.
What could be the cause? If you have 10 or more people on staff, you are likely missing a “level” of management.
You have level 1- individual workers, and you (level 4)- expecting to lead well-designed and highly functional systems run by others.
You might even have level 2- a “supervisor” who monitors daily work of direct reports (perhaps informally and tactically), and is concerned with the next week or month.
But if you want to plan 1-5 years out and make changes that will improve your people, process and profits, you have to get out of the “daily supervision” game.
You need a deputy.
Here is a list of 9 ways your deputy (general manager) can positively impact your organization:
- Watch the store– develop and implement dashboards with key business results, review regularly and alert you to any “exceptions” so you know things are on track and there are no surprises
- Process improvement – identify trends in your hassles, bottlenecks and other issues, research to find route cause and suggest solutions, then implement the solution
- Build your team– Identify new roles or more people before your delivery suffers. Recruit, screen, onboard and train new staff that are Ideal Candidates, build a virtual bench of pre-qualified candidates before a position opens up
- Coach the team– schedule, assign and coordinate work, monitor performance and attitude, give feedback, train and develop people for the best job fit and opportunities, engage the team to retain A players.
- Client experience building– handle escalation of client issues, routine relationship building, periodic follow up to uncover unreported issues and identify opportunities
- Get stuff done– Take your brilliant ideas for sales, marketing, process improvement, customer service and work with you to implement them
- Get Strategic – Provide another viewpoint and involvement input in annual goal setting, then cascade goals down to every person, communicate and implement via individual dashboards and team coaching conversations.
- “Hold down the fort” so you can have dinner with your family and take several two-week vacations (almost worry free)
- Open up your schedule– so you can focus on thinking and planning, provide leadership and direction, building strategic relationships, and monitoring from a dashboard (instead of an avalanche of data)
Basically a deputy lets you guide the process while they drive the business.
Most owners wait far too long to get a deputy- a general / operations manager. The concerns are the usual- effort (how can I find and train a good one) and cost (how will I pay for him or her?).
Take a quick count- how many of these are happening now in your business?
What impact would these activities bring to your business if they were in place?
- Would it tighten up your sales process to win more business and increase revenue?
- Would it increase customer satisfaction leading to more sales and referrals?
- Would it provide the systems for reducing your costs based on higher efficiency?
If you increase quantity and value of each sale 5%, and reduce costs 5% this can double your profit.
Can a deputy do this for you?
I do it, you do, everyone (except the birds and bees) does it… spend time on the WRONG things.
Managers and owners spend our time coaching and training our People to be more focused, more effective, more productive… but are we?
As a fan and follower of Laura Stack (the self-proclaimed “Productivity Pro”), I was excited to read her latest book, “Doing the Right Things Right: How the Effective Executive Spends Time.”
She has a simple framework that outlines the 3 T’s — and is relevant for every People Coach (from to the CEO of a $1 billion firm to a small business owner with 5 people):
1. Thinking Strategically (Business)
2. Teamwork (Team)
3. Tactics (Self)
I call this Plan, People, and Process… and she has a nice breakdown of what a manager “should” be doing.
Get her book summary for free at this link: “Doing the Right Things Right: How the Effective Executive Spends Time.”
(There is even a self-assessment on pages 13-17 if you are up for the feedback!)
As the coach, you have to both set the example as well as personally focus on the Right Things for your team to be effective and successful.
“*Managing by Wandering Around” doesn’t work anymore! (*A great term coined to Tom Peters and still used today by many successful small business owners, who are unfortunately trapped in their business because their team relies on constant attention.)
Like exercising and eating right, most business owners express to me that they know they “should” be spending more time coaching and training their team members.
When I ask why, the answer I get is “I am too busy” – but what is the real reason?
Yes, even small business owners and managers sometimes don’t “do the job” (a short list from my article 10 reasons why someone doesn’t do the job) —
Which one applies to your situation– why aren’t you coaching your staff?
- You don’t know what to do / or how to do
- You aren’t motivated to do it (you are uncomfortable)
- You think it is pointless
- You believe something else is more important (after all, you do spend your time doing something else)
Let me first address 3 and 4— Coaching is not pointless and nothing else is more important to your company’s success.
If you want to retain top performers and get your team working together to delight your customers and grow sales— only positive coaching for accountability (based on cascading goals) will do this.
Here are four possible solutions for the “reluctant coach” — to increase the amount of coaching and positive impact on your team:
- Design and use a management rhythm— know what to say, when to say it — to clarify expectations and coach for accountability
- Make conversations easy– build trusted relationships (builds on the management rhythm)
- Practice and learn how to be comfortable—do it, learn from it, do it again (and keep it positive and appreciative)
- **Add a layer– Develop a team leader or general manager who will be the People coach, and interact with the team daily.
(You can get updates from this person, and lead weekly team update and rocks meetings to still be active and involved with the team. Just not every day and on every issue.)
(**This is also how you grow the team to stop relying on your daily presence…)
If you are not interested in creating a better process, or learning how to do it authentically and naturally, that is just fine.
Just as long as you start developing a People coach on your team who will.
A new software for small business owners is called “17 hats” – and I think this accurately reflects the roles of a small business owner. You are chief everything officer (sales, people, operations, marketing, accounting, customer service), cheerleader and spokesperson, and as my family says “chief bottlewasher!” (if it needs to get done, you will do it.)
So it is no wonder you feel like you don’t have time to coach your team members monthly (much less weekly).
And no doubt some people on your team are easier to coach than others, so you tend to procrastinate in delivering feedback or talking about what would challenge and motivate them.
The data is clear—employees don’t just want daily task discussions (called “Managing by Wandering Around” by Tom Peters)—
Employees want to know how they can contribute, what is the purpose of their work, feedback on results, and that there are opportunities to develop and maximize their strengths at your organization.
This means you need a development plan for each person, coupled with regular two-way discussion on their aspirations and challenging assignments that meet their desired career path. (That is what we mean when we say “coaching.”)
If all of your conversations center around “what are you working on today” then they feel ignored, and will lose interest, commitment, and engagement in your job. (Reminds me of the joke – “I feel like a mushroom, left in the dark and fed manure.”)
Ultimately these unnoticed people will seek employment elsewhere where they can feel appreciated, a sense of accomplishment and contribution.
Or worse, stay in your job as “actively disengaged” working against your team. (Read my article—Want Employees to Tune Out? Ignore Them to find out the huge cost of the disengaged).
Every small business owner or manager can be a motivational, positive, and appreciative leader and implement a rhythm of weekly coaching conversations.
You just need a blueprint and training, and the willingness to learn and get outside your comfort zone to start having real conversations with your staff.