Posted By Sandra Wiley,
Thursday, February 9, 2012
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who has managed a team has most likely stumbled across a challenging
Identifying the challenging
behavior is easy; finding ways to change the behavior and motivate the team
member so they exhibit superstar qualities is the true challenge. Why
are they so difficult? Why do they
continue the unpleasant behavior, even when they are told that it needs to
change? Because it is working for them! This is behavior that has worked for them
before, and allows them to get what they want.
In order to get the performance YOU want from the person, you must change
the cycle that they have developed.
look at the cycles of bad behavior that some of your employees may have fallen
- Slackers are individuals that perform just enough to get the work done, and no more. You might see their performance as "just good enough” to not fire them. They evade the harder tasks and often seem cynical and are apathetic.
- Space Cadets are seen by employers as those individuals who show difficulty in grasping the reality of their situation. They may be told about technical issues that need to be corrected, they respond affirmatively that they will fix issues, and then simply act as if they have not been told anything.
- Power Grabbers are the people who are hungry to feed their ego’s by asking for only the projects and clients that will benefit them, not necessarily the overall firm. They love the power, but are often not good at working within a team infrastructure.
- Loners are the individuals in the firm that simply want to be given work and then left alone. They do not want to work on team projects or help to develop others.
- Drama Queens/Kings love the attention, both good and bad. They always have a story and they always seem to know all of the gossip. They often will suck you dry emotionally because they are always on a very high or very low emotional level.
- Challengers will take you to task at every turn. They often seem to be disagreeing with you, no matter what your stance, and they may even disagree with something they agreed on the day before. Exhausting!
- Clingers like to be right on your heels at every step. They seem to be incapable of doing even the smallest of tasks on their own.
of you may be thinking about names of past or current employees that you have
worked with who fit the definitions above.
You may also be thinking about the excuses that were given for retaining
these under achieving people.
- But he/she is one of
my top performers
- It’s not worth the
- Maybe they will change
- His/her skills are
worth the headache because of the expertise they have
When a leader in the firm coddles, ignores or spend many hours trying
to change the behavior of a challenging employee, what are they telling their star
employees? The actions that are being
taken – or not taking – are sending the message that more care will be given to
the under achievers than your best employees.
Morale, productivity, retention, self-esteem and profitability will all
decrease, and your firm will certainly suffer.
The bottom line is that almost every leader in every firm knows that
the result of not dealing with an underperforming employee is not good for
them, however, they also do not know how to change the cycle that has been
allowed to happen. Identifying an
assertive process that can be implemented is imperative for positive progress. The following 8 questions will give the leader
a performance correction roadmap for improving a challenging employee’s
behavior, and help build confidence before the conversation takes place. As you think through each question, it is
important that you write your responses and practice saying them out loud,
possibly to a peer who can give you feedback.
The key is to be fully prepared as you begin the process of changing the
cycle of bad behavior.
- What is the real issue? While this may sound simple, the
deeper you look at the real problem you will often find that the problem is not
as simple and straightforward as it seems.
As you write out the problem, think about how it is affecting the firm, coworkers,
partners, clients and ultimately the ability for the employee to grow in their
position at the firm. Take the time to
really identify all issues that need to be discussed.
- What is the goal of
the conversation you will be having?
As you talk with your employee, is the goal to change the overall
behavior, engage in a conversation with the employee to gather more
information, or is it to give the employee a warning that if the behavior does
not change he/she will be dismissed?
Identifying your overall goal will help you structure your comment
- What is the date,
time and place that you will have the conversation? Adding the appointment to the calendar will
draw the line in the sand that will show the employee and yourself that you are
making a commitment to have the conversation.
Make sure you schedule an adequate amount of time and schedule it in a
space where you will both be comfortable.
A conference room where you can sit next to the employee is a positive
step. Your office sometimes feels like
you are not trying to have a two way conversation, it feels like you are
"telling” them and not "engaging” with them.
- Who is your support team in this conversation? Having a tough conversation like this is not
a single person project. Supervisors,
mentors, human resources and firm administration can potentially all be on your
team as you gather information, seek professional help and practice what you
will be saying. Keeping the conversation
confidential is your ultimate goal, but insuring you have all of the information
that you need to insure a legal and ethical outcome is also necessary.
- What are the facts? As you seek help from your support team,
insure you have all of the facts you need, as well as specific examples from
your support team. The most powerful
knowledge you have are real life examples that will help the employee see how
their behavior is working against them.
- What are the steps that the employee must
achieve in order to reach the desired outcome? Write out the steps – in your opinion - that
the employee must take to change their behavior. This is not the final plan, but it will be
the conversation started for your meeting.
Once you have opened the conversation with the employee, and you talk about
steps that they can take to improve, then seek their assistance in editing the
steps with their suggestions for improvement.
Adding ideas from the employee will always make the outcome more
successful since they will be invested in the plan.
- What tools can you
provide to help the employee achieve the desired outcome? With the plan in place, identify some tools
that might help the employee stay on track and motivated. This can be task lists, performance plans,
weekly meetings, mentoring, coaching, peer group meetings or in extreme cases
an outside professional councilor. These
tools will help the employee and you stay accountable to the plan that you
- When is the follow
up meeting? Never leave the meeting without a specific,
written follow up meeting scheduled.
You are now armed with the information you need to deal with those
challenging employees that are in your firm today. The overall situation they are in comes down
to two possible outcomes that you as the leader can help them achieve; 1) agree
to a roadmap to success where they stay with the firm as an active and
productive team member or 2) allow them to find new opportunities outside the
firm. It all begins with the leader’s
commitment to having a strategic conversation.