Within just about every organisation we work with, we can very easily categorise the people into three distinct levels of performance – the high performers, the middle achievers, and the low performers.
The challenge we are often tasked with is to enable organisations to ensure they can keep their high performers, develop their middle achievers to become high performers and to eliminate poor performance, preferably through training and development.
Here is a quick three-point introductory guide to how you can start getting your teeth into managing poor performance:
Vitality Curve them
Jack Welsh (GE) came up with the concept of measuring your people’s levels of performance on a chart, referred to as a Vitality Curve.
To try this for yourself, first, make a list of all your staff within your organisation and place them in order based on performance (top performers at the top, bottom performers at the bottom).
Next, divide your list into three sections: your top 20%, your middle 70% and your bottom 10%. This allows you to concentrate your efforts appropriately on the bottom 10% of performers that need to be turned around, quickly.
As an aside, as a manager, this is ironically where the majority of our time is spent, rather than with the high performers!
Often poor performance comes about because people really do not know what is actually expected of them in the first place.
To avoid being unreasonable (and the often associated issues with unfair dismissal claims) both you and your underperforming member of staff write down what excellence in their job actually looks like. Then compare what you have both written down.
If the answers are identical then you have good ground to formally review their capability in achieving what is expected of the role. If they are miles apart, which frequently they are, then the discussion needs to go back to agreeing future performance requirements for the role and what support is needed to achieve this level of performance.
Certainly, you will find that if people are clear about what is expected of them, and indeed are enthused by it, then they have a far better chance of achieving it!
Fire the Excuses!
Whenever we look at people who are underperforming, we can often get hung up on them as people, rather than the reasons why they are underperforming.
So, before you get to the point of having to ask someone to leave your organisation (“You’re Fired” as they would say on The Apprentice!), ask yourself whether you have fired the excuses first.
As a manager, it is our job to eliminate any excuses our staff have for not doing their job, such as a sales manager having to eliminate the amount of unnecessary administration a sales person has to do and so on.
Highlight the excuses that your staff keep coming up with as to why they are underperforming and then one by one fire them (i.e. fix them!). That way, there is little or no excuse for underperformance and the buck has to stop with that employee.