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10 Things A Smart Leader Does To Deal With Non-Performing Employees

10 Things A Smart Leader Does To Deal With Non-Performing Employees

One of the most difficult parts of leadership is dealing with non-performing people. You have to do the difficult, painful work of discussing an employee’s shortcomings and then figuring out how to fix them.

Here are ten things a smart leader will not neglect when handling a non-performing employee.

1. They assess the long-term work habits of the employee.

There’s a big difference between an employee who consistently does not meet performance standards, and a good employee who has hit a slump. A good leader will be sure to look at each employee, and each employee’s situation, individually.

Use metrics, past reports, and work performance history, plus your own personal experience with the employee, to determine if you’re dealing with a consistent non-performer or with a stressful, unfocused, or overloaded time that is keeping a good, performing employee from doing well.

2. They listen first and talk later.

A good leader doesn’t assume that he or she knows the underlying causes of the non-performance. It’s time to call a meeting and listen. You may think you know the cause or frustration or bad habits, but until you hear it from your employee, you really can’t be sure.

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Sit down with your employee and ask how work is going. Ask for frustrations. Ask about problems. Ask about progress. Find out if your employee is aware of the performance issues or not.

3. They share specific problems and examples.

A smart leader knows that generic feedback is only going to frustrate and confuse a non-performing employee. Chances are that your non-performer is already overwhelmed and unsure of how to improve. Simply throwing out feedback like, “You really need to do better,” or, “Let’s make sure this next quarter is better than the last,” does not provide any specific, practical steps for your employee to take.

Instead, share specific ways that you want your employee to change and improve. Provide hard numbers for specific areas of responsibility so that your employee knows exactly what you are looking for and whether he or she is close to the goal.

4. They keep track of progress.

A smart leader knows that a single meeting or talk is not going to be enough to change old habits. If your employee has a long-term tendency to not live up to standards, it’s going to take time and ongoing help to change those habits.

In order to provide the right kind of help, you need to know what progress your employee is making and where he or she is still falling short. Keep track of the numbers and the performances in the specific areas you’ve given the employee to work on. The ones that are still below standards will show you where you need to step in and provide further help and instruction.

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5. They encourage.

Encouragement is important, especially when an employee is working hard to overcome old, bad habits or a stressful situation or particularly heavy workload. As you keep track of the progress your employee is making – or not making – look for areas where you can provide encouragement.

Encouragement is different than praise. Praise is a positive response to something already done or completed: “Great job on that report!” Encouragement is a positive response to something being done, something in progress: “You’re making good progress and I know that report is going to be great.”

6. They deal with the employee’s concerns.

A smart leader does not ignore the issues that an employee brings up. Instead, a good leader will examine the issues and determine what needs to be fixed or changed.

In your initial meeting with your non-performing employee, what were the problems, frustrations, or issues that he or she mentioned? Don’t blow them off as rantings of a lazy employee. Spend some time checking into things, and find out if the problems are real and how they can be solved.

7. They follow up regularly.

A good leader does not leave a troubled employee alone to figure out what should happen next. Since your employee is struggling, a regular check-in to talk about problems and progress is important.

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Your employee needs to know that you’re there to help and you’re also not going to forget and let them slide back into old habits. A regular follow-up meeting will allow you to give encouragement, to let your employee know you’re dealing with problems and issues, and to talk about how to keep improving in areas where progress is lacking.

8. They motivate.

A smart leader knows that sometimes self-motivation just isn’t possible. If your employee is dealing with personal issues, or feels overwhelmed by what is required of him or her, you need to help provide some motivation.

What does your employee care about? Is it money? More vacation days? More flexibility? Peer recognition? The opportunity to work on more intriguing projects? Find out what really gets your employee excited, and then help him or her see how improving performance can allow those things to happen. Sometimes we all need a dangling carrot to help us keep going forward.

9. They bring in training and resources.

A good leader will not leave an untrained or lacking employee alone to figure it out. Doing so will not only delay the performance you need, but will also frustrate and discourage your employee.

Sometimes you have great people who are willing to do the work, but simply are not equipped to do it. If there is training that needs to happen, schedule a time and place and qualified person to make it happen. If there are missing resources, or too few resources, do what you can to bring in more so that there are adequate supplies, tools, and knowledge for the job to be done.

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10. They know when to end it.

A smart leader does not avoid the inevitable. If you have worked with your employee, provided what is needed, dealt with the issues, and given good, specific feedback and follow-up, what’s left? If the employee is still not willing or able to perform, it might be time to end the working relationship.

It’s never fun to let someone go from a job, but if your employee is not fitted or interested in doing the work, you’re doing no one a favor by extending the employment. Free your employee – and yourself – to move on and make progress, even if that means parting ways.

Featured photo credit: Open Box via flickr.com

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Last Updated on December 5, 2018

How to Lead a Team More Effectively and Be a True Leader at Work

How to Lead a Team More Effectively and Be a True Leader at Work

Being an efficient manager and a charismatic boss at the same time can seem like an impossible task. Is there a way to deliver the desired results for your business while remaining liked and respected by your staff?

We all know bad examples of team leaders who seem to fail at one aspect or the other, or even at both. But we’ve also heard of awesome managers who seem to juggle both things well enough.

How do they do it?

By sticking to few proven ways that let them maintain a positive karma score while remaining efficient. In this article, we’ll guide you through 11 smart management tips on how to lead a team and become something more than a boss – a leader.

1. Find a Management Strategy and Stick to It

There’s nothing worse than a boss that keeps changing his or her opinions and assignments depending on their mood or a book they read this week. Chaotic decisions increase the insecurity and frustration of your team, so you better find your strategy and stick to it.

If you do find some new methods you want your staff to follow, make sure they don’t contradict the general direction you are taking. Otherwise, you risk making your team take one step forward and two steps back.

2. Set Goals​ and Track Progress in Reaching Them

Set individual and collective goals​ for your team and track the progress in reaching them. This might sound obvious at first, but too often we find ourselves stuck between daily customer requests and monthly reports, and the bigger goal or vision seems to fade away.

According to Elon Musk (and many other successful CEOs around the Globe), it’s crucial to have a clear and motivating aim to where the company is heading. His aim for the space transportation company SpaceX is “to make humankind a multi-planetary species”.[1] That’s a huge goal but the company is slowly moving closer to it by reaching smaller steps and milestones, like launching self-landing rockets. This is also a very inspiring and meaningful goal that helps employees endure the company’s extremely high expectations and 60 to 70-hour work weeks.[2]

Even if your goals are not as grand, setting and reaching milestones will give you a clear insight into the team’s overall efficiency and daily progress. With time, you will be able to see the weak spots and improve your results.​

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3. Demand Learning from Your Team

CEO of print on demand startup Printful, Davis Siksnans, believes that:[3]

“The key for a company going through rapid growth is to empower your employees’ self-development.”

His company with 500 employees spanning two continents demands a culture of learning and provides all the tools necessary to do it.

Their idea is –  as the company scales, people have to grow in their positions too, which means that they have to be constantly learning. Siksnans says:

“We try to hire people for what they might become, but they need to have that drive.“

Alternatively, you can provide educational courses for your employees or invite informal lecturers to educate and inspire your team. You can also encourage peer-to-peer learning by asking employees to teach their particular experience or skill to co-workers.

4. Invest in a Pleasant Work Environment

Studies show that a well-designed office environment can increase your team’s overall performance by as much as 20%. You’ll be surprised to see that even very small interior tweaks that don’t require major investments can improve your workers’ performance.

Some ideas for a more productive and pleasing work environment:

  • Invest in modern furniture – offer ergonomic chairs, standing desks, and individually arranged workplaces​.
  • Start an in-house library – reading for pleasure just 30 minutes a day is proven to be enough to become more effective at work,[4] improve focus, and deal with problems like depression and anxiety.​
  • Play jazzy office music – rhythmic background music will help workers feel more energetic and enthusiastic while doing everyday tasks.​
  • Set up entertainment or break rooms – being able to relax and have fun at work creates a strong commitment, helps employees relax and clear their minds, and boosts productivity.​
  • Bring in uplifting office decor – it’s been found that art in the workplace can boost productivity,[5] lower stress, and even encourage employees to innovate.​
  • Decorate the office with live plants for freshness and a welcoming feel. Furthermore, plants are found to ensure better air quality and increase workers’ productivity by 15%.[6]

5. Be Kind and Sincere to Your Team

Did you know that 50% of employees quit because they dislike working with their manager?[7] In fact, most times when people leave their jobs they actually leave their managers. Being friendly and sincere may not be enough to be a successful manager, but it’s a big part of it.

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Some ways to show you appreciate and care for your staff:

  • Celebrate the progress and achievements of your employees. And don’t be shy to simply say thanks.​
  • Talk to your employees regularly and really listen to what they have to say. Address their concerns, help them reach their goals and do your best to improve their work and daily life.
  • If you’re having a bad day, don’t pour out your stress and anger on the staff. Instead, try to recharge yourself by appreciating the achievements of your team and setting the next goals.
  • Try not to overload your team with work. Every company has rush periods when it’s okay to have more work than usual. But remember that people cannot work under prolonged pressure and stress.
  • Don’t be selfish – it can be very demotivating to see that the manager only focuses on what you can do for him and doesn’t care about your goals and well-being.​ As the CEO of Xerox Anne M. Mulcahy put it,[8]

    “Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person — not just an employee — are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled.”

Whenever you are having doubts about your kind attitude, remember – satisfied employees are productive employees which lead to satisfied customers and eventually – success for your company.

6. Offer Flexible Work Hours

The traditional Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 job is beginning to slip away. Increasingly more people are working remotely or having flexible work hours, and we can expect this trend to continue. To adapt to these changing habits and remain competitive in the labor market, more employers are offering the chance to choose your own work hours, work from home or even from another city or country.

Offering flexible hours is a powerful way to inspire your existing staff and give them intrinsic motivation. Why not let your employees choose their preferred working hours while keeping the 8-hour day? For example, night owls are unhappy and unproductive if they have to come to work before 10 AM, while others might prefer to start at 7 and finish earlier.

You can go even farther and hire remote workers – this way you’ll be able to recruit from a global talent pool and even save money on office expenses like desks, stationery, electricity, etc.[9]

7. Track Your Team’s Productive Time

Not monitoring your employees’ progress and efficiency can result in poor performance and slacking. Instead of letting things go with the flow, you should consider installing time-tracking software on your employees’ computers and see who’s doing great and who might need a productivity boost.

But don’t get it wrong – there’s no need to become big brother and watch every step your employees take. If you use the time-tracker as a spying tool, you will only see increasing suspicion and insecurity around you, and your employees’ happiness levels will drop.

On the contrary, choose software that allows employees to mark private time that won’t be tracked. In addition, consider these time-management tactics:

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  • Allow flexible work hours. (see Tip No 6)
  • Encourage breaks – studies show that employees who take regular breaks are more productive than those who don’t.[10]
  • Enable remote work to show your employees that you trust them and that they can work from home or even from another country (if they can maintain sufficient productivity).
  • Consider offering bonuses to your most productive employees (those who show productivity levels above 90 or 95%).

8. Use Only Constructive Criticism

Constructive criticism means offering valid and rational opinions about the work of others, involving both positive comments and remarks about what should be improved. Constructive criticism is usually expressed in a friendly manner rather than an oppositional one.

When you evaluate your team’s work, give them feedback that’s helpful, specific, and sincere. Don’t be shy to praise, but also be direct and even strict when necessary.

9. Don’t Give Special Treatment to Yourself

The boss’s actions are – directly or indirectly – observed by your team. This means that your employees look up to you and often mimic your attitude towards your work and the company – especially if your actions don’t show commitment. Nobody wants to work for a leader who doesn’t go all in or inspire motivation.

What you should do is lead by example. If you expect your employees to arrive at work on time and work 8 hours, do the same yourself. If you want them to show initiative, show it yourself and encourage others to do the same.

Jeff Weiner is the CEO of LinkedIn – a company of 3,000 employees that consistently ranks as one of the best workplaces with a 92 percent employee-approval rating.[11] Weiner’s workdays are reported to be equally long or even longer than those of his employees, allowing him to stay “extremely credible as a leader.”

10. Empower Your Employees

Here’s a common mistake many managers make:

They don’t motivate their staff and assume they simply love to work for their company.​ Such belief can result in painful losses for the company – especially these days when many companies are in desperate need of a reliable workforce.

Instead of directly thinking about bonuses and perks, consider intrinsic motivation. For example, enable flat organization in your team and listen to your employees’ ideas when they come up with opinions and suggestions. Your company might actually benefit a great deal from the feedback, and the unique ideas employees come up with.

You can also start an initiative where employees can freely share or pitch their business ideas to you or the founders of the company. If the idea is accepted by the management, the project can be developed, and the employee can have equity options.

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If people feel they have an impact in the company, they become more motivated, engaged and interested in the company’s growth.

11. Nurture Your Company Culture

Company culture is the personality of a company that defines the overall work environment and relationships between teammates. It also includes company mission, values, ethics, and goals.

Some examples of company cultures are the Horizontal corporate culture (collaborative and equal; popular among startups and free-spirited businesses) and Conventional corporate culture (a more risk-averse and hierarchy-based approach common in traditional companies).

However, you don’t have to stick to pre-existing boxes when creating your corporate culture. You might think of your team as a family, a sports team, or even a hippie camp if it fits your business and purpose. But keep in mind that by the time a company’s size reaches 20 employees, the company culture is set,[12] and any changes will need to be implemented in smaller teams.

Whichever personality you choose for your company, make sure to live by it and nurture it. Some things that might help:

Team building events, relevant books in your office library and proper on-boarding for the new employees to get everyone on the same page from the very beginning.

Be a Leader, Not a Boss

Using the words of Printful’s CEO Davis Siksnans, the ultimate goal is to “Hire great people who don’t have to be managed.”

However, when you do need to demonstrate some initiative and control, act as a leader rather than as a boss.

In other words, don’t be afraid to show the personality behind your role. And keep these 11 tips close to your heart.

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

Reference

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