In his book 201 Ways to Turn Any Employee into a Star Performer Casey Hawley explores the best practices and most effective strategies for turning around performance problems, starting from 11 truisms about low performers.
Truism 1: No one takes a job to fail
Everyone would rather succeed than fail. Outwardly, an “I don’t care” attitude might mask feelings of insecurity. Leaders who are not daunted by first impressions of performance problems can set organizations on the path to great performance.
Truism 2: People are motivated by two things: fear of punishment and hope of reward
Few of these rewards or incentives involve money. Today’s employees are motivated by so many things: flexible work hours, training to enhance their worth in the marketplace, a family-friendly work environment, the desire to make a contribution to society, and much, much more. These interventions capitalize on every employee’s desire to find rewarding work and to be appreciated and acknowledged.
Truism 3: Small performance problems that are not addressed early become big problems and can spread to good performers
Most employees don’t work in a silo. They unconsciously benchmark their performance against the performance of others. If poor performers are not turned around, the standards of the other employees around them slowly deteriorate.
Truism 4: If you do what you always do, you will get what you’ve always gotten
Managers who do not try new approaches to changing behaviors and boosting performance do not lead people forward. If a manager has been trying to achieve performance results with the same methods for years, that manager will think that those methods hold the answers to all performance problems. Managers are urged to experiment, to try new approaches, and to work to challenge employees in surprising new ways
Truism 5: Everybody is good at something: the trick is to find out what each person is good at
Most solutions to performance problems depend on changing the performer, but the most effective interventions encourage managers to realign tasks with the gifts of the per- former. Although this is not always possible, particularly in small organizations, redistributing assignments to make everyone more successful is a tactic that managers should at least consider.
Truism 6: You can’t please a boss who doesn’t know what she wants
The manager may want performance to be better in general, but does not have specific goals or performance descriptions in mind. Or, she may make the mistake of thinking that the employee sees performance and standards exactly as she does. A manager is responsible for depicting the target performance in action words and descriptors that the employee can readily grasp.
Truism 7: Sometimes the best course of action is no action at all
Some unproductive employee behaviors are temporary and result from a specific circumstance at work or at home. If the employee has proven valuable in other ways in the past, leaving him to work out the behavior on his own may be the most efficient route to returning the employee to top performance.
Truism 8: Catch people doing something right
In The One Minute Manager, Ken Blanchard made famous the supervision technique of “catching people doing something right.” He showed how easy it is for human nature to prompt us to point out the flaws and imperfections of performance and how much more challenging it is to pinpoint things that an employee is doing well. Positivity reinforces great performance for the employees and their peers instead of solely calling attention to poor performance.
Truism 9: You get greater performance shoulder to shoulder than standing over someone
Although active, strong leadership is commonly encouraged, an attitude of partnering is more effective; there is as much asking as telling, and the communication is always two-way. Other methods may get the job done today, but partnering is the only way to achieve top performance over the long term.
Truism 10: It takes different strokes for different folks
The key to teaching employees new skills is adapting to different learning styles: deter- mining whether a worker learns best by reading directions, watching a demonstration, or putting her hands to a task and learning by trial and error. Simply observing or remembering times when the employee seemed to learn quickly and enjoy the process can give clues about the employee’s learning style. Asking an employee how he wishes to be trained or coached sometimes works.
Truism 11: You can’t just talk the talk; you must walk the walk
Today’s employees expect authenticity in their leaders. If you require a high standard, whether in ethics, production, or quality, then you must demonstrate your commitment to that standard as well. Now more than ever, employees want models of performance. Take care that you model the behaviors and demonstrate a commitment to the goals that you expect from others.
Adapted from 201 ways to turn any employee into a star performer – Casey Fitts Hawley – McGraw-Hill