What should you do about the underperformers in your team?

I was running a coaching session last week with two excellent and experienced Sales Managers.We were exploring some options for one of their team members who is under performing on a number of fronts. Photo Underperformer1 for web site

Their underperformance has been evident for over a year.

The Sales Managers have both tried a range of options to lift their results. Unfortunately there is no tangible evidence of any progress.

Over the past 20 years as a leadership coach and trainer, I've probably had this conversation with my clients more than any other conversation.

What do I do about someone who is not achieving the results we require?

Like most things in life it's not easy to provide a simple solution for what can be a complex problem.

You have to assess many things about the person in question:

  • Do they have the skills to do the job?

  • Do they have sufficient motivation for the job?

  • Is there some type of clash with their leaders style or approach to coaching them?

  • Are they having issues outside of work that could be impacting their performance at work?

  • Have they had success in the past. If so, when and why? What's changed?

  • Is their performance sporadic or has a genuine pattern emerged?

 Before you march them off to the departure lounge I recommend the following 3 step process: 

  1. Be crystal clear on where the individual is falling short. Often people are of the belief that they are performing a lot better than they really are. Have an honest discussion with them about where they are currently at, and where they need to be at by a certain point in time. Try and identify through open questions and active listening what could be behind the lack of results. Use your experience to identify what may be causing the problem. Some roles are easier to measure than others. For example a sales person can have very specific KPI's that are easily measured. eg; Number of calls per day, number of customer visits, revenue targets, quoting targets, conversion ratios. The clearer you are on what is being measured, the easier it will be to deal with someone who is underperforming.

  2. Invest sufficient time in coaching them and improving your relationship. Everyone is different. Some people will need more structure. Some more space. People often mask their insecurities by telling you they don't need support and that everything is OK. It rarely is. I've never met someone who has not benefitted from real, genuine, quality coaching. If you feel you are not able to coach them, then I suggest you develop your coaching skills or utilise the skills of others to assist you.

  3. Change their role or move them on. There is no point in investing more and more time in to a consistent under performer. Yes, you need to patient. You don't make a flower bloom by yelling at it. Everyone moves at a different pace and it's important to remember the person you are working with is not you. They have different skills, values and experiences. If they are not making progress or reaching agreed KPI's by the agreed time frame you need to take action. This might include finding a different role for them within your company, re training them, organising some time off for them or possibly terminating their employment.   

Coaching underperformers is very draining

Your time is limited. Coaching an underperformer is very draining. Doing nothing rarely solves the problem. You need to take action. Sooner is normally far better than later. You will get a far better return on your time invested working with more motivated staff who value your experience.

Spending time with serial underperformers is a complete waste of your valuable time. It will drain you mentally, emotionally, possibly financially and finally physically. 

You will never regret the underperforming staff who leave, only the ones who over stay their welcome.

Posted in Sales; Tagged Management, Habits; Posted by Steve Herzberg

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