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I’ve coached thousands
of managers over the years and out of all of my years doing this I’ve noticed
many common themes. One of them is that practically every manager I’ve ever
worked with does not have a strategy when dealing with an underperformer.
Sure, they have reviews and consequences but don’t have a defined process to
turn someone around.
And I think the big part of that especially today is that managers are
continually being seduced by the ether of potential.
They have an underperformer, and either buy into their excuses or they
themselves are hoping that in time they’ll miraculously turn their performance
around. The last time I checked, hope is still not a strategy.
What is needed is a detailed strategy to turn an underperformer around and I
have proven that regardless of your industry or sales cycle, you can either turn
someone around in 30 days or make the decision that the person simply does not
belong on your team so you no longer have to waste your precious time coaching
In short; over a four week period with at least one meeting each week, work
closely with that person and have them declare and commit to the short term
goals, activities or changes they are going to make. At the end of four weeks,
there are three basic outcomes.
- They did what they committed to or did part of
- They showed promise and
demonstrated evidence that justifies continually working with them.
- They didn’t do what you had
outlined with them at all.
Sure, we can’t control many of the things going on in the economy. However,
what these managers and companies can do is realign their thinking around the
things they can control and the importance of continually developing their
people, which begins with how these executives develop themselves into the
leaders they can be in this new age.
Now, there are several issues at work here that inhibit the manager’s ability to get
their people to be more accountable around their goals.
1. Is there a consequence associated to their actions or lack of action? And that consequence
can come from you (i.e. affect on their salary, position, job, bonus, etc.) or
from a personal cost they would feel themselves by not changing.
2. Building off number 1 above, it’s all about how you position this
conversation. This is always a tough job for managers because most of the
time, they get on their soapbox and preach the consequences to their people. For example: “You can
be more successful if….” “You can make more money if only you would
……” or “If you don’t turn this around you’re going to (be out of a
job, get fired, fail, etc.).” This falls on deaf ears because for them to internalize
it, they must hear the consequence in their own words, through their own voice
and arrive at the consequence on their own. They need to recognize it, say it
and declare it.
And the only way to do this is by asking them better consequential questions.
Here are the steps to coaching someone to be more accountable.
- Gauge where they are at
regarding the process to achieve their goals. Are they engaging in the right activities? Are they on track? What is
the evidence? There’s a big difference between people’s good intentions
and their actions.
- Let them declare the consequence
of inaction or doing things that aren’t working.
- Let them come up with the
- Let them articulate their
commitments and deadlines to the task or for making the changes necessary.
- Confirm specific action steps.
When dealing with
conflict, most people do not like confrontation and tend to avoid at all costs.
However, when you’re asking questions, you can never be the bad guy! Here are
some examples of questions that are meant to uncover how you can hold someone accountable and the management style that they respond best to.
- How can I best support you to
achieve your goals? (Uncover how each employee wants to be managed and
supported.) How can I best manage you around the
results you are looking to achieve?
- How can I hold you accountable
in a way that will sound supportive and won’t come across as negative or
- How do you want me to approach
you if you don’t follow through with the commitments you make?
- How do you want me to handle it?
What would be a good way to bring this up with you so that you will be
open to hearing it?