Now more than ever, organizations are looking for ways to make their organizations leaner and more efficient. One way of doing so is to look at how to improve employee performance.
The problem is that weak employee performance is rarely the root cause of the problems being experienced. More often than not, employee performance issues are a symptom of something else going on.
This may be related specifically to the employee themselves, such as a lack of necessary skills. Sometimes, it’s symptomatic of larger issues within the team or organization. For instance, an employee who is not feeling challenged in their role, or one who doesn’t feel respected, is less likely to bring their top performance to the table.
Your job as a manager is to develop the skills necessary to get to the root of the performance problem so that you can ensure sustainable change moving forward.
What does a leaking roof have to do with poor team performance?
Let me share an analogy here.
We had the roof of our house replaced last year. 3 days after our brand new $10,000 roof had been installed, it started leaking. When we called the company back, they did no analysis. They came, patched it up and told us it was fixed.
But then, it leaked again.
They came again. Patched it again.
Guess what happened?
Yup… it kept leaking.
We kept requesting they come and do some tests to determine the origin of the leak. They kept insisting that they knew the origin of the leak. The repairs kept failing.
This went on and on for a grand total of 14 months, until we finally decided to deal with the issue in court.
I see a similar approach time and time again with team performance issues. People are convinced they know the cause. They address it with the individual involved and expect it to be resolved now that the person has been spoken to.
But this is literally the same approach that my roofers took. It’s a patch job.
And patch jobs lead to leaks.
Just like with my roof, if we can take a bit of time to dig deeper and figure out what the real root cause of the performance problem, we can address it once and for all.
Just like my roofers wasted their own time and resources while also losing our trust, you too may be wasting your time and resources with your approach to employee performance.
If you find yourself faced with the same employee performance challenges time and time again, then now’s the time to take a look beyond what the employee is doing to evaluate how to take your approach in dealing with it up a notch.
Here are a few steps that will help you to get to that core challenge.
1. Rethink your belief that the employee is the problem
I know… I know… this one may be a hard one to swallow. But I think it’s an important point to reflect on.
Yes, you may be experiencing significant performance issues with one specific employee. Yes, there are a few bad apples where it may not be worth your time to invest in figuring out the underlying problem. But there is an overriding belief that performance issues are due to problem employees which is simply inaccurate.
Performance issues may be due to a mismatch between the employee’s talents and the tasks they’ve been assigned. They can be related to personality differences and a lack of understanding as to the influence this has on the way different individuals need to function to be most effective. Or, as the pandemic has shown us, they may sometimes be related to something going on in the person’s personal life that you know absolutely nothing about.
When you view the employee as the problem, the employee basically ends up in a position where they have to prove that they’re worthy. No long-term successful relationship can be built on this type of dynamic.
When you can shift your lens to considering that you both have a problem you want to solve together, rather than seeing the employee as the problem, you’ll be well on your way to resolving those performance challenges.
2. Listen. Then listen more.
My roofers didn’t ask questions. They jumped right into fixing. When I raised concerns, they went unheard.
Don’t be like my roofers.
Don’t jump to a solution before your team has had a chance to express their perspective.
We’re often so quick to solve problems that we forget to listen first. Asking questions to the employee and your team (when pertinent) will help you to get to the bottom of whatever is going on.
3. Widen your thinking
When we look at a problem from one sole angle, we see it through our preconceived notions. Bias then plays a huge role in how the situation is dealt with.
Effectively solving employee performance challenges requires you to use more out-of-the-box thinking.
Don’t focus your questions solely in relation to the employee. Open up the discussion to allow you to consider absolutely any possibility, using open ended questions such as “what do you think might be contributing to these challenges?”.
There may be collaboration challenges with other team members or departments that are contributing. A mismatch between the needs of your employee and your own leadership style may be a contributing factor. Conflicting messages between yourself and other leadership figures within the organization may be contributing. If your questions are overly directive, you may never get to the true root cause of the problem.
Think of it initially as a brainstorming process where all suggestions are valid. Only once that process has been completed do you shift towards looking at what makes the most sense. The real story often lies somewhere between your perception and the employee’s perception of the situation.
By consistently using the above steps, it will become progressively easier to get to the root cause of performance issues as you work to support your team members. This will ultimately save you and your organization time, money and sanity.
If you’re interested in finding out how your leadership communication skills stack up in relation to those needed for a leadership position, you can take my quick quiz and find out immediately.
If you’re looking for support to help your leaders develop the communication skills needed to get to the root cause of performance challenges, book a complimentary 30-minute discovery call now. I’d love to understand what types of challenges you’re facing.
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