Turning Poor Performance into Opportunity: A Guide for Leaders

As leaders, we have a responsibility to deal with the behaviours of poor performers. It’s not an easy task; in fact, I’d say it’s one of the more challenging aspects of the job. One that many less capable leaders avoid, instead they opt to either transfer the underperforming employees to other departments or simply ignore them in the hopes that the problem will go away.

This is short-sighted thinking, I strongly believe that when we have low performers we have an opportunity to help someone improve, which is a win-win approach, because they will feel much better about themselves, and we will gain more productivity.

Taking this approach allows us to tackle this opportunity with a positive attitude which will be appreciated by the low performer, and it actually makes the task a lot easier.

It’s always difficult to give people bad news, or feedback on poor performance, but by seeing this as a win-win opportunity, we can communicate that we are looking to help them improve, it’s now not a negative feedback meeting but a constructive meeting.

We need to remember that every time we provide feedback it is so supposed to be of benefit to the recipient, not a punishment session.

When we take this win-win approach I have found that people are so much more responsive, we can also look to see what’s causing the performance issue.

This could be anything:

– poor communication of expectations by us

– lack of training

– lack of resources

– lack of ability

– personal issues

– wrong task assignment

– constraints that they don’t have the authority to remove

For many of these issues, it’s actually our job to deal with them, so if we are being critical of the performance and these are the causes, then we are really being critical of ourselves – we just didn’t know it.

A positive approach invariably has a positive outcome, it’s very rare, in my experience, that people just didn’t want to do a good job, there is usually a reason their performance is being impacted, one that can often be easily resolved.

When we take a positive approach and actually turn around low performers this has a tremendous impact on our reputation as leaders. It shows that we care and that we are looking to fix things, rather than just punish, which goes a very long way to building trust and loyalty within our teams.

People see how we treat low performers and if we are seen to treat them in a positive manner it’s also more likely that when they have problems they will approach us, confident that we will look to help them, which can avoid a lot of issues later on.

So if you want to be a good leader, don’t avoid dealing with low performers, turn it into an opportunity to improve productivity, and improve trust and confidence in your leadership!

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