As a leader, at some time or another, you will face a situation where an individual on your team is performing below supervisory expectations. What should you do when there is a gap between the level of performance that you expect and what is actually being produced?
As a starting point, examine the set of metrics you are using to evaluate the individual’s performance. Are the metrics designed correctly? Are you measuring what ultimately matters?
Assuming that you are indeed using the proper set of performance evaluation metrics, there are three potential reasons that an individual’s performance on your team may be falling below expectations:
1. They lack awareness. First, determine whether or not you provided the individual with clear performance expectations. As the leader, you are responsible for communicating clear expectations and outcomes. Clarity around job descriptions, roles, and expectations are each critical to successful execution. Communicate what you want to see. Don’t assume that the expectations are implied or already understood.
It may be possible that you did in fact communicate your expectations but somehow the individual just simply forgot them. In this case, clearly restate your expectations as a follow up to your original communication.
If you ever feel like the individual’s performance is somehow “off track”, evaluate whether or not you’ve provided them with enough information for them to determine for themselves that they are off track. Do they know what a “win” looks like? Without clear expectations, your followers will likely fail to meet them every single time.
2. They lack capability. Underperformance may also stem from the fact that the individual is incapable of meeting your expectations. Would any other reasonable person consider your expectations realistic? Are you expecting something that would be impossible for anyone else in a similar situation to produce?
Their inability to meet your expectations could also stem from the fact that you may not have given them all of the resources that they needed to be successful. One way to assess this is to collect feedback from those you lead. Many times if you have failed to provide the proper resources, your followers will let you know.
Is the underperformance due to a lack of skill or training? If so, look for targeted skill enhancement programs to develop the individual’s skill sets. Also, partnering the individual with mentors that are skilled in the missing skill capacity is another way to improve their skill set.
Lastly, the problem may lie in how the assigned work itself has been grouped together. It’s possible that certain assignments and tasks are better suited for certain unique strengths of the underperforming individual. You may, however, be asking the individual to complete work that involves a variety of tasks that were thrown together, many of which may require strengths outside of those the individual possesses. If so, consider realigning parts of the work and redistributing it to other team members who may be stronger in those particular areas.
3. They lack motivation. This problem speaks to a person who simply chooses to not meet your expectation. Maybe they believe you have failed to offer an incentive for meeting or exceeding the expectations. People often become disinterested in work that is either immeasurable or work that is not consistently praised or rewarded. Have consequences been established for a failure to meet the expectations? As the leader, you must identify the core reason for the noncompliance and address it head on.
After you’ve clearly communicated your expectations, a good next step is to schedule follow-up meetings in which the individual’s actual performance is evaluated against performance standards.
If a gap still exists between actual and expected performance, evaluate whether or not you selected the correct reason for underperformance listed above. If not, tackle what you now believe to be the root cause of the problem. A good overall question to ask in this case would be: “What changes need to be made in order for them to do better?”
If you believe that you have correctly identified the root cause and their performance is still failing to meet expectations, you may be dealing with a chronic underperformer and should consider removing the individual from the team. You will never be able to tap into the full potential of your team with the wrong people sitting on the bus.
Would you add to or take away anything from this list? Let me know by leaving a comment.