Managing staff member performance is challenging at best. Individuals come to work with a variety of skills, attitudes, and experiences that require leaders to be adept at adapting to varying needs by using customized approaches. One size does not fit all. Because performance management is complex and time consuming, it is easy for leaders to be blindsided by engaging in practices that won’t work or may even make things worse. Watch out for these attitudes and behaviors that most likely will back fire.
1. Waiting for poor performance to get better. In reality poor performance rarely gets significantly better, even after performance improvement plans are written and implemented. Short bursts of improvement may occur, but, in the long haul, sustained improvement happens infrequently. The exception may be improvement in a specific skill or level of productivity. With attitude and behavioral issues, the results are typically meager. Rather than wait for an unspecified or unduly long period of time, put improvement attempts on a shorter timeline and be ready to take action. Move the staff person to a job more suited to his or her strengths or work out an exit plan.
2. Forgetting that poor performers adversely affect good performers. By avoiding the uncomfortable work of dealing with poor performers, leaders subject their good performers to the consequences. Co-workers who don’t pull their weight often cause others to take up the slack and do more than their fair share. Resentment grows along with the inequity in workload, causing good performers to stop stepping up or to leave. By dealing with poor performers, leaders create a more balanced and motivating work culture.
3. Not giving enough attention to top performers. It’s easy to ignore those who do the job well, are independent, and ask for little time or attention. However, without recognition as well as development coaching, top performers may feel they are taken for granted. Avoid the big mistake of allowing poorer performers to take more of your time than those who are working at optimal levels. Everyone needs your attention. Talk with your star staff members about their goals and help facilitate getting them accomplished. Say thank you and give them specific praise often. Undue time spent on poor performers may even reinforce their problematic behavior. They succeed in getting your attention. Use your time more wisely by spending more of it with those who do exceptional work.
By avoiding these three pitfalls, you will move your team from moderate to high performance. The heart of good leadership is learning to balance the needs of all of your staff members and take the right actions to ensure not only productivity, but also a spirited work environment.