Touchy feely. So, PC. So, cringe worthy, so inauthentic, so… effective.

The tough guy or gal approach to performance management rarely works because it triggers a fear, anxiety and stress and when humans feel under pressure, they stop thinking clearly, they make mistakes and their morale slumps. Say what you mean, and mean what you say, but only from the vantage of making a genuine effort to improve the performance of your staff member.

Put the person first

Every human being deserves to be treated with respect and kindness. We all pass through this life once. If you have a staff member who is losing you money, causing you frustration or creating issues with other staff and customers, the right thing to do is to try and turn them around. Giving people a second chance and then throwing them back into the deep end really isn’t a second chance at all.

Take the time to sit down them, to try and understand what the problem is. Could it be external factors, like marriage issues, boredom, legacy habits, lack of understanding? To solve a puzzle, you first have to understand how the puzzle works and only then can you map out a strategy.

A common mistake that leaders make is to fixate on the problem and the person causing the problem, rather than the reasons why that person may be causing the problem. Of course, there are total losers and manipulators who will use and abuse, but at least spend the time investigating whether they fit the bill or not. If you want to be liked, respected and followed — if you want loyal, productive and conscientious staff — put the person first.

  1. Spend time with the person on the job. Work alongside them if necessary.
  2. Ask questions, observe and research. Understand the person. No person is a role, and no role exists without a person.
  3. What are their goals and aspirations?
  4. Talk through how their current role can help them achieve their personal goals.
  5. What do they like about their job?
  6. What do they dislike?
  7. Draw up your performance management plan only after you understand the person.

Show them why they matter

One of the more common, but least discussed, reasons for under performance is that the staff member does not understand the objective of the business and why their role is important. A cleaner at a hotel, for example, may not know that the hotel’s objective is more than accommodation — that it may be to help guests de-stress, so they come back again. Litter (rubbish) bombards the mind with excessive stimuli that make our senses work overtime, causing stress. In this way they understand why it is critical to always be picking up litter — they know it is critical to helping people de-stress.

  1. Be clear about your business objectives (particularly the emotional ones).
  2. Show your staff member how their work is critical to achieving even one of those objectives.

If people feel that they are just a cog in the wheel; that their contribution doesn’t really make a difference, then they will not be motivated to perform. Show them why what they do matters.

The job is never self-explanatory

Your staff member may have been given a job description when they started work, but no job description survives first contact. Don’t take it for granted that their job and their job description is self-explanatory. Even if your team member is an experienced operator, every organisation is different and every organisation changes. What was true last year is not true this year.

Spend time with your employee reviewing their job description. Dissect it, synthesise and simplify the job description and then work through it with them so they understand exactly what is expected and why. Ask questions to make sure they understand. This may take multiple sessions and requires patience but spend the time to make sure they understand every inch of their work and why it is necessary.

  1. Review your employee’s job description with them.
  2. Update the job description, with their agreement, if that is necessary.
  3. Clearly define their job description and make sure they understand what it is.
  4. Work through the details so they understand every detail about what is required of them.
  5. Where necessary, provide additional training.
  6. Review regularly.

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