As or owner, have you ever dealt with an employee whose performance you were not happy with? Have you tried to “fix” the employee?

I’ve been reading “People Leave Managers….Not Companies

According to the authors Tate & White, many of the performance problems of employees can be traced to poor management, not to employees who need to be “fixed”.

I have to admit, as a manager, I’ve fallen into the same trap. Thinking that the employee “just didn’t get it” when in reality I was just being a poor manager.

The book lays out a nice decision tree that allows you to assess the situation and determine if you have an employee problem on your hands or if the solution lies in how you’ve been managing and have work to do on your end.

There are five areas that the book focuses on in the assessment process:

  1. Performance Expectations – Are the performance expectations clear
  2. Determine Ability – Can the person perform?
  3. Determine Confidence – Are they apprehensive or confident
  4. Determine Commitment – Can they be their best?
  5. Determine Desire – Are they personally motivated?

I wanted to focus this blog post on the first step, performance expectations.

Tate & White breaks this down into four core things that each manager must do to ensure the performance expectations are clear.

As the authors state, “Without alignment on performance expectations, managerial practices such as measurement, feedback and recognition are moot”. According to recent Gallup research, the critical indicator of employee productivity and retention is “knowledge of what is expected of me at work”.

Clarify The Desired Outcomes For Each Employee

What are the desired outcomes of the position and how will you determine successful performance in the role?

This is hard work especially in companies which are in constant flux.

If you think of it from a sports team perspective, there are various positions on the field. Each position is required to perform some role. Each position could be boiled down into certain outcomes that are required out of each position. Thinking in terms of outcomes instead of tasks allow the employee to be creative as opposed to checking off a box. If you are clear about the outcomes, measuring success in that role becomes much easier. Did that employee achieve the outcome they were hired for? If not, why not.

One way to ensure job expectation alignment is by asking your employee to write down a list of the top 5 expectations. Then ask the employee to prioritize these expectations as they think you would prioritize them. You do the same and compare lists. I think you’ll be shocked at the results.

Link Employee Performance To Your Company’s Mission

According to Tate & White, “All performance expectations should connect with both the mission of the organization and the human impact those expectations affect”. This is the “why” part of the performance expectations. When you make a connection to a higher purpose, your team will bring more to the table. It’s not just a transaction of money for time.

We blogged about this here when we talked about Lencioni’s 3 signs of a miserable job. If employees don’t understand the impact they are making they are sure to feel miserable on the job.

Impact – A clear understanding of what specific difference or positive impact each employee’s job making in the lives of those around them (customers, other employees, bosses etc).

Clarify How Success Will Be Measured

Clarifying how performance is measured involves spelling out performance standards or acceptable performance levels as well as the methods of performance measurement.

How does your organization keep score? What does good performance look like? Do your employees feel in the dark regarding how well they are performing? According to Tate & White organizational performance feedback can get “generalized into ambiguous characteristics that provide little if any real measure of performance”.

Don’t take the “no news is good news” tack with your employees. Be careful not to just give feedback when employees are doing poorly. Again from Tate & White, “If managers don’t have clarity on what good performance looks like, managers have a tendency to react to poor performance when it happens and to take acceptable performance for granted.”

Boy, I’ve definitely, “been there and done that”! What about you?

Clarify Employee Accountability & Consequences Of Poor Performance

Nothing demoralizes other employees when one employee is under performing, yet management refuses to do anything about it. Not willing to take action sabotages the goal setting process.

Accountability sends the message that the organization meant what it said.

In a previous company I was involved in we had this problem in the sales organization. There was one account executive who under-performed both from a pure sales goal perspective, but also did not have the same core values as the organization. This individual did not respect other people or their time. Everyone in the organization knew it, yet the sales leadership was unwilling to remove this person from the sales organization because from time to time they did get deals closed. Outside the sales organization, it was seen as a double standard.

Tate & White lays out the results of accountability failure:

  • There is a redefinition of expectations
  • Performance adjusts to the tolerance level
  • Frustration and anger with management grows
  • Good people quit and leave
  • Some quit and stay

So before you think that your employees need to be “fixed” take a look at these four steps.

  • Have you clearly defined expectations by defining the expected outcomes?
  • Have you linked each role to the mission or the “why” of the organization?
  • Have you clarified how performance is measured and rewarded? Are you a “no news is good news” manager?
  • Lastly, do you keep your team accountable?

We’ve created this free accountability chart to help.