One of my clients refers to the dinosaurs she’s discovered roaming the floor of her new workplace. Not old as in nearing retirement age, but old as in past their ‘use by’ date. They aren’t making a useful contribution. They’re poor performers.
When another talks about managing poor performance at her workplace, she says the owners feel morally obliged to keep people on. It’s like once they’re hired, they’re hired for life. And that means people are getting away with poor performance, at least from my client’s perspective. For her, it would be better for the business, my client and her colleagues who are picking up the slack if they either lifted their game or were asked to leave.
Why is poor performance being tolerated? Is someone avoiding a difficult conversation?
Yet another client chose to tackle poor performance head on. He was new to the CEO role and wanted to “clean up the leadership team”. Poor performance would no longer be tolerated. Not on his watch. He wanted the business to reach its potential.
If poor performance is a surprise to the underperformer, then you are likely to be in for a challenging time. For that new CEO, it took about two painful years to get the leadership team to where he wanted it to be.
One person thankfully left of her own accord. Another left, almost two years later and not quietly. He kicked and screamed, and reaped as much havoc in his wake as he possibly could. Turned out he’d been rated as a good performer for years. Despite the sales figures showing clearly that he was anything but.
This situation could have been avoided if his previous bosses had managed his poor performance. If they’d helped him see his own shortcomings, and helped him improve. Too much was tolerated for way too long.
And frankly, that’s both lazy and unkind.
Lazy because as a leader it’s your job to develop more leaders. Yes, it takes effort on your part. And, from what I’ve seen, it’s worth it. You do yourself leadership proud when you help someone turn around from being a poor performer to someone realising their potential. It’s also why it’s unkind. It’s not nice to let someone’s potential squander because you couldn’t muster the courage for the conversations that needed to be had.
There are ways to manage poor performance that leaves a person’s dignity intact. To say things in ways that can be heard and taken on board without crushing their confidence or inciting anger and resentment. This is an essential leadership skill and a skill that can be learned.
Contact me if you’d like to learn more.
Photo credit: Fausto García on Unsplash