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Dealing with Poor Performance

dealing with poor performance

Dealing with poor performance is a bit like picking up acorns

Most people who know me, know I love my garden.  I can happily while away hours pottering in the garden, and my idea of a good workout is a good bit of digging or lopping vegetation (beats the gym any day!).

Our garden is surrounded by mature oak trees, which means at this time of year we get lots of acorns, and I mean LOTS!

And, as we know, from tiny acorns mighty oak trees grow…

Following my accident last summer my gardening activities were somewhat curtailed. Which meant none of the acorns got picked up last year. So, lo and behold, a mini oak forest is popping up all over the garden! And having spent most of Saturday pulling them up, I can report oak saplings put down strong roots very quickly! Of course, had I managed to deal with these last year they would have been a darn sight easier to pull up!

It’s the same in business; if we don’t deal with problems early on, they can escalate into something much more challenging; like pulling up oak saplings rather than picking up the acorns.

Two particular types of problems come to mind, both of which can have an impact on the team and your customers: team members’ poor performance and unhappy customers. I’ve written many times before on dealing with unhappy customers, so my focus today is on picking up on dealing with poor performance.

I often find junior or inexperienced managers in particular tend to avoid dealing with poor performance. One reason is for fear of repercussions.

So here are 10 principles you can share with them to give them the support and guidelines to nip any performance problems in the bud (or eliminate them altogether!)

  1. Set expectations, so everyone in the team knows what’s expected of them. The clearer these are (ideally expressed in behavioural terms) and the less they are open to misinterpretation, the easier it is for everyone involved to monitor poor performance.
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  2. Ensure people understand why things are done the way they are; if people fail to appreciate the importance of what they’re expected to do it’s very easy to lose any buy-in or commitment.
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  3. Addressing an issue straight away might be relevant for everyone in the team. However, beware; giving everyone a lecture in a group meeting makes the ‘non offenders’ irritated that they are all being ‘accused’, whilst those to whom you are aiming your comments either just laugh it off, or it goes by without them realising you are referring to them.
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  4. Conduct regular 1:1’s with team members where you review good performance, discuss shortfalls, and set targets for the coming period. This is an opportunity to pick up on any shortfalls before they become an issue, and identify the cause.
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  5. When feeding back on performance (whether good performance or where improvements are needed), use the AID model. Stick to facts, not your interpretation of the facts.
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  6. Recognise not all shortfalls are down to the individual; maybe it’s a training need, it could be through lack of resources, perhaps the system doesn’t allow it to happen, or maybe simply that there just aren’t enough hours in the day. Find out the cause; if you don’t know this, how can you correct it?
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  7. Use the ‘3E’ structure – Establish the gap – Examine the reasons for the gap – Eliminate the gap
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  8. Be prepared for the excuses – “well Nancy does it all the time and gets away with it”, or “I don’t see why that’s a problem”, or “No one’s ever told me that I had to do that”. These last two responses suggest that some more explanation or training is needed, and you may need to draw a line in the sand and set out your expectations for the future.
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  9. Focus on the end result. Irrespective of the issue – whether it’s someone being late, not greeting a customer in the way you’d expect, breaking health and safety rules, failure to carry out part of their job, arguing with another member of staff, or doing something in a haphazard way with a poor result – Your goal is to resolve the issue and improve performance in future.
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  10. Recognise that failing to take any action about poor performance sends the message to everyone else that it’s OK to break the ‘rules’. We sometimes misguidedly believe that it’s a one off or the problem will go away; but before you know it the problem has escalated – either the person in question continues to disregard the standard, or it becomes custom and practice for everyone to follow suit.

Of course, every business should have its own disciplinary process, and I am not suggesting by-passing that. But if you nip the issue in the bud hopefully you’ll never need to get as far as the disciplinary process.

Take Action

If you only do one thing – Share this list with your junior managers and supervisors and give them the support they need to nip poor performance problems in the bud.

p.s  If you need some more help with developing your junior managers let’s have a chat to see how I can help. 

Related articles

How to give constructive feedback

Dealing with poor performance ~ Part 2



Rotten Apples

Have you any rotten apples in your team?

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If your customer service training or any other efforts to get the best from your team are just not working maybe you have rotten apples in your team. It only takes one or two negative or obstructive people to get in the way and undo all your efforts. These people can have a massive impact on employee engagement, people’s performance and ultimately on your customer service levels.


Perceptual Positions

percetual positionsBy the time you read this thankfully all the campaigning will be over and we’ll know one way or the other.

There’s been a bit of a difference of opinion in the Cooper household. Hubby and I have homed in on different merits for and against remaining/exiting the EU!

Seeing things from different perspectives extends far beyond which way to vote in the EU referendum. When I’m coaching managers to get the best from their team or training staff in dealing with customer complaints encouraging them to see things from other people’s perspectives is such an important part of resolving difficult situations.

One technique uses that of perceptual positions, which helps you imagine what difficult situations look like when viewed through others’ eyes, in other words to imagine what others perceive by imagining that you are that other person.

This involves looking at it from 3 different perspectives

  • First position is your natural perspective. You are fully aware of what you think and feel regardless of those around you. This is of course the perspective we find most familiar. But as you focus on it you may only then start to realise what is important to you and what you want from this interaction. You will probably become more aware of what you believe and value, and more likely to be assertive about your own needs.
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  • Second position is about stepping away from our own position and imagining what it’s like to be the other person, experiencing the situation as they would.Some people are very good at considering others’ needs and concerns; for others imagining second position can be a completely alien view. When you are really in their shoes everything you do or say makes perfect sense to you.
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    When you do this well you start to get a sense of what the other believes and values; what is important to them, and a better understanding of what they want. And the better you get at this the more empathy and rapport you create. You might even be able to predict how they might respond in this situation. You are certainly in a better position to offer better customer service to a customer support to a team member.
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  • Third position is an independent position where you act as a detached observer noticing what’s happening between two other people. I like to think of this as the ‘fly on the wall’ or ‘The Consultant’s perspective’ What is important is that this position is an impartial insight into a situation.Imagine you are watching and listening to each of the people involved as they communicate without getting involved yourself, without having to feel their feelings and emotions.
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    From this new perspective, you more likely to get an overview of the situation, the bigger picture. You can start to notice patterns and become aware of similarities and differences between the parties involved, and you’re better able to analyse the situation logically with less emotional involvement. What’s also important is you can start to see yourself as others see you.
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    From this position what advice would you give ‘first position’?

When to use Perceptual Positions

It can be particularly useful when you are dealing with a situation where you are having strong negative feelings towards the other party, or do not understand their actions.

For example:

  • When a team member is acting in a way that you find destructive to the task in hand, or negative towards others in the team.
  • In customer service training to illustrate how to handle an angry and (to our mind) unreasonable customer

It doesn’t just help in negative situations, it can also help clarify the way forward in for example sales situation when it will help to see things from the clients’ positions or in a consultant position to see the situation better and help the client achieve their outcomes easier.

It works best when you physically change position when moving from 1st position to 2nd position and then 3rd position; e.g. in 2nd position move round to sit or stand when the other person would normally see or stand when you meet with them, and when the ‘fly on the wall’ stand up and physically look down on the situation.

The real learning comes by stepping out of first position to explore second and third positions and see what light it sheds on a situation.

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More than just a headache

I don’t normally write about personal stuff but as this week is National migraine week and I’m a long-term sufferer I thought this was a great opportunity to educate those who are affected by friends and colleagues or employees who suffer from migraine. Also to promote some of the excellent achievements from the National Migraine Centre in London who have a worldwide reputation for treatment and research into migraine, and have certainly helped me to keep my migraines in check.

Migraine affects 1 in 5 of the population and every day in the UK 190,000 suffer a migraine attack. The World Health Organisation ranks it as one of the 20 most disabling conditions, however it is the least publicly funded neurological illness relative to its economic impact (it costs the UK economy in the region of £7 billion).

My migraine hell started in my early teens and I remember whilst at university some of my fellow students reporting that they thought I was dying when they first saw me with a migraine attack.

Mercifully when I’ll was working in Florida for 14 months I can only recall one migraine attack; maybe I was just a little bit more relaxed while I was there. Frustratingly the one attack I did have was when I was visiting friends and I certainly wasn’t fit to drive home and missed work the next day. My boss simply could not comprehend that a ‘headache’ could prevent me from getting to work.

Then as I moved into management positions initially my migraine attacks became more frequent. Although I had a certain amount of empathy from the company I always felt that there was an element of suspicion that my ailments weren’t genuine. A consultation with the company doctor at the time confirmed this as “classical migraine” and from then on in my colleagues were a little more understanding.

If you have friends or family who suffer from migraine you’re probably already aware of just how debilitating it can be. But if you’re an employer and it affects someone’s reliability and quality of their work you may not be quite so understanding. Migraine is not simply a headache, and pumping yourself up with painkillers does nothing to alleviate the symptoms, and in fact in many cases can make things worse, especially nausea and sickness.

Talk to your employee about any known triggers to a migraine attack. Quite often it might be a combination of triggers that bring on an attack rather than just one. In my own case there are a few things that I am wary of and in the past as an employee it could sometimes be difficult to avoid without letting others down. Of course the net result is you let them down any way if you then end up being ill.

Here are a few triggers that I’m aware of which can crop up in the workplace:

  • Low blood sugar, made worse by skipping or working through the lunch break
  • Dehydration so not having access to water
  • Interruption to sleep patterns, so made worse by shift patterns for example working a late shift followed by an early shift
  • Extremes of temperatures, e.g. Overheating in stuffy rooms or hot kitchens
  • Changes in barometric pressure or weather and/or extreme cold temperatures
  • Flickering lights
  • Undue stress or worry, which is often okay until people relax and then the migraine hits and on the first day of your holiday or at a weekend, so you come back to work feeling as though you never had a break.

If any of your team suffer from migraine and have not sought professional help, then do them (and yourself) a favour and refer them to the migraine clinic. More details below.

Extent of the Problem of Migraine

  • Every day in the UK 190,000 suffer a migraine attack
  • 90,000 in the UK miss school/work every day because of migraine
  • Migraine affects 1 in 5 of the population
  • Migraine is most common between the ages of 30-50, and in women.
  • More than ¾ of sufferers report that their activities are limited by their condition
  • Most sufferers say migraine interferes with family and social relationships
  • Migraine is more common than diabetes, epilepsy and asthma combined
  • The World Health Organisation ranks migraine as one of the 20most disabling conditions.
  • 1 in 3 neurologist referrals are for headache
  • Migraine is the least publicly funded neurological illness relative to its economic impact
  • Over ⅓ of sufferers face difficulties and discrimination at work because of their migraines
  • Less than half of migraine patients consult a physician

National Migraine Centre has for 32 years provided treatment to sufferers of migraine and cluster headache as well as education to healthcare professionals. Patients can self-refer and are asked to donate towards the cost of their appointment as the Clinic receives no NHS funding. The clinic is based in London and open to those from all over the UK, however hopes to setup outreach clinics in the future to improve accessibility for sufferers around the country.

Migraine treatment has come a long way in the last ten years, but recent developments show there is more that can be done. The current approach is for treatment that targets the head (as opposed to the whole body with drugs). These treatments include; Greater Occipital nerve block injections, Botox injections (recently approved by NICE – The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, and due to be offered by the NHS from mid September), and handheld devices giving electrical or magnetic stimulation of the brain.

For information regarding the charity and its work:

Rebecca Sterry, National Migraine Centre. 22 Charterhouse Square, London EC1M 6DX.

Tel: 0207 251 7806/07716 426896 rebecca.sterry@nationalmigrainecentre.org.uk

Website: www.NationalMigraineCentre.org.uk Registered Charity no 1115935.


Celebrate Success !

Celebrate your Success

Celebrate and reward success

Establish regular opportunities and events to enable others to share their successes and achievements. This could be as simple as team meetings where individuals talk about their successes and what others can learn from these, but add more weight to this by publicly recognising their success e.g. sharing achievements with your guests or entering them for awards. Highlight how individual contributions have had a positive impact on the business as a whole, and be open and optimistic about business performance.
Recognise and reward individuals, departments or the team as a whole to demonstrate how you value their successes.  So if you were to ask your team if they believed you see the glass as half empty or half full, what response would you get?

 

Join me on the FREE recording from my recent tele seminar on how to get the best from your team


Give your talent a feeling of security (part 3)

I’ve worked with a number of businesses recently who have had to make cuts and changes. This makes people uncomfortable, and so when another opportunity comes along, they jump at the chance if they feel it has better long term security.

Communicate any changes that are happening in the business before they happen, and how this might affect them.

Set standards so that people know what’s expected of them, and can measure their own performance, and not left in doubt about their contribution.  Be consistent, ensuring the same ‘rules’ apply to everyone. Focus on telling people what you want to achieve, i.e. the end result, rather than dictating how to do it.  This gives people flexibility to adopt their own style (you’ll be surprised how often they end up improving the process) rather than living in fear of not being able to comply with strict processes.  And make sure you provide the appropriate tools, resources and training to do the job effectively.

Training your staff in the mechanics of the business operation puts them in a better position to contribute to cost control and income generation. If people understand how the business makes its money they are then in a position to contribute to this and put forward their own ideas. A win-win for both.

They say that “people don’t leave their jobs, they leave their managers“. Can you really afford to let that happen? This is what the Leading for Peak Performance 29 Day Challenge is all about, and starts on 29th February. Find out more here.


Give people a reason to stay (part 2)

Yesterday we looked at why staff leave. Today we focus on positive reasons to stay

Recognition and reward

If the reason they give is more money look to see how your rates compare with the competition (bearing in mind for some roles your competitor for staff may be in totally different industries). But also look at what benefits your staff are getting that they may not be getting elsewhere and ensure people are aware of everything that makes up their package.

What about the less tangible aspects of their package. Recognise and reward performance and achievements. Celebrate and share successes; identify and utilise people strengths, training, delegating and giving them control and ownership where appropriate. Be sure to recognise all departments, including back of house staff, e.g. housekeeping is often the most undervalued department, but is commonly the most profitable aspect of a hotel.

Encourage and reward loyalty by conducting regular pay/benefits reviews. Think about incentives that are within reach of any member of staff who performs well. This might mean focusing on a different theme each month so that everyone has an opportunity to be recognised for their particular skills or strengths.

 

Career and prospects

If they’re moving for career progression, is this something that you could have given them but just didn’t make them aware of the opportunities? What can you do in future to ensure that all your team get the recognition and development they need for their career progression?

Grow from within where possible, and give people the opportunity for career progression as well is enhancing the skills to do their existing job. Think also about life skills; for example offering English lessons. And make use of the training grants available through the tourist organisations, colleges, and government-funded schemes.

You won’t be able to accommodate everyone’s aspirations particularly if you’re a small hotel, but having some kind of succession plan in place does give people something to work towards. However, be careful you don’t make promises that you are unable to keep.

Make training a part of day-to-day management, so it’s not seen as something that is additional or optional. This goes for both staff and supervisors/managers. Identify those who have an interest in developing their CV and are willing to take on training responsibilities as part of their own development.

They say that “people don’t leave their jobs, they leave their managers“. Can you really afford to let that happen? This is what the Leading for Peak Performance 29 Day Challenge is all about, and starts on 29th February. Find out more here.


Dealing with poor performance ~ Part 4

Eliminate the gap

We said that the goal is to improve performance or prevent this happening again. This requires buy in and commitment from the other person. In order to change, there needs to be some incentive. The fear of the disciplinary process may be enough, but it is hardly motivating! Nor is it any guarantee of a change in behaviour.

Understanding the reasons enables us the come up with options, and to gain buy in we need to ask the employee for their ideas on how to improve. Sometimes a simple “don’t do it again” is all that is needed, but it may not be as simple as this.

For example if the issue is poor timekeeping, but the reason is there is no bus that gets them into work in time for the start of their shift, the problem wont just go away – can we change their shift times? Is there someone who passes who could give them a lift? Or they may be a carer or their partner / child is ill and cannot leave home until the nurse or help arrives.

Of course the problem may be down to a flagrant disregard of the rules, in which case you must first help the employee to understand the impact of their behaviour.  Homing in on the effect it has on his or her team mates, of the impact on guests, or the business may not be enough to get buy in. Focus on something that is important to this individual employee. An example might be making their job easier, being able to finish their shift on time, getting cooperation from their team mates, the opportunity to be considered for other roles, etc. The conversation needs to be tailored to suit the individual’s motivators.

Agree on an improvement plan.  This will involve gaining their commitment to improve, and may require some help from you or other members of the team.  Then agree how and when it will be monitored, as well as any consequences if there is no improvement.

Finally show your support and encouragement. If you suggest or imply they can’t or won’t improve it generally becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

 

Managing poor performance is key to effective leadership, and the skills needed will be covered in detail in my forthcoming online leadership coaching programme Leading for Peak Performance which is being launched in late September.


Dealing with poor performance ~ Part 3

Examine the reasons for the gap

The only way to do this is to get the employee to talk the situation through by asking open-ended questions, and by listening.

There may be a number of legitimate reasons why someone has not performed to standard.  Lack of resources, time pressures, insufficient training, bottlenecks in the system, mixed messages in terms of expectations, for example. (See my earlier article “Bad workmen or poor tools?“).

Everyone has a right to a fair hearing.  However do be prepared for the excuses – “well Fred does it all the time and gets away with it”, or “I don’t see why that’s a problem”, “No one’s ever told me that I had to do that”. Is this a genuine disciplinary problem or an indication that help is required? These last two responses suggest that some more explanation or training is needed, and you may need to draw a line in the sand and set out your expectations for the future.

Also consider if the problem is down to relationships, to get attention, a grievance, or a clash of personalities.

Only by really understanding the reasons are we in a position to turn the situation around or prevent a reoccurrence. Tomorrow we’ll look at how to eliminate the performance gap.

 

Managing poor performance is key to effective leadership, and the skills needed will be covered in detail in my forthcoming online leadership coaching programme Leading for Peak Performance which is being launched in late September.


Dealing with poor performance ~ Part 2

Establish the Gap

What is it they have done or failed to do? How does this compare with the standard or rules? What is the impact (actual or potential) of their actions? We should be focusing on actual behaviours – what we have seen or heard first hand.

It’s very easy to haul someone into the office to take them up on something you’ve been told by someone else, only to have them deny their actions. So gather facts (opposed to hearsay, and others’ perceptions and opinions). Be prepared to give specific examples, the more recent the better – so don’t start dragging up something they did or said two months ago.

Avoid making judgments about their attitude or personality e.g. “I don’t like your attitude”, or “you are very arrogant”.  What have you seen or heard them do that has led you to that conclusion? Is there a genuine shortfall in standards of performance?

By focusing on their actions and behaviours you are less likely to get a defensive response and it is easier for people to identify what they need to change.

Tomorrfow we’ll go on to look at eliminating the gap.

Managing poor performance is key to effective leadership, and the skills needed will be covered in detail in my forthcoming online leadership coaching programme Leading for Peak Performance which is being launched in late September.