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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 April 17, 2019

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

What’s the secret of professional success? Some of it lies in the mastery of your discipline and all the technical skills you have to carry out your job; but a much bigger part lies in the soft skills list you possess.

Soft skills are your people or relationship skills—how well you get along with others and your ability to communicate and collaborate—as well as the personal characteristics you bring to the job, such as optimism, a can-do attitude and the motivation to work hard. These skills are not always easy to point out, but their absence can cause serious problems and negatively affect the whole work atmosphere.

They say that hard skills will help you get the job, but soft skills will help you get along—and get ahead. With that in mind, here’s the top-10 essential soft skills list to help you advance your career.

1. Communication Skills

Communication skills are hands-down the most sought-after soft skill that bosses want, and this one ability covers a lot of ground.

To communicate well, you have to listen carefully, interpret the context of the conversation, express yourself clearly, persuade others of your point of view, check your body language and use an engaging presentation style that won’t intimidate or bore your audience. That’s a big ask!

Your personality traits can influence the way you communicate with others. For instance, some people get straight to the point and center their arguments around facts and logic; others are cooperative and sensitive to how others feel. Both these approaches are equally valuable but there can be misunderstandings if you don’t understand where the other person is coming from.

Taking a comprehensive personality test can help you understand why you communicate the way you do and where your blind spots are. It can also help you understand other communication styles is so you can tailor your communication to the person you’re dealing with.

After all, connecting with your conversation partner is the hallmark of good communication.

2. Flexibility

Change is an essential part of any business. Companies need employees who are flexible enough to work with new initiatives, open to new ideas, and generally are able to tough it out when things don’t go as planned.

Research has found a link between job performance and flexibility over the long term because there will be times when you have to step outside your routine and rise to fresh challenges that didn’t exist before.

Being flexible doesn’t mean you have to hop into a new task or job role like an expert. Rather, it’s about showing you’re willing to accept new responsibility and learn different things.

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Bosses look for people who are prepared to step outside their comfort zones and are open to alternative solutions when their first idea doesn’t work.

3. Being a Team Player

Working on a team can be challenging but learning to do it well can definitely help you get ahead in your career. Employers look for people who can negotiate, cooperate and manage conflicts with other people to achieve a common goal. That includes the ability to build lasting relationships with customers and clients.

What makes a good team player? Essentially, it’s someone who knows the goal and knows her role. Employers look for evidence that you know your strengths, your responsibilities and how you can best contribute to the team, then put those skills into action by sharing ideas and communicating in a respectful manner. That’s the definition of being a good team player.

This is another area where taking a personality test can help you get ahead. When teams work together, each member brings a unique set of skills and qualities to the group. Research has shown that different combinations of personalities affect how teams collaborate and how productive they are.

Knowing who you are, and how you work on a team, can drive new insights and open the door to better teamwork.

4. Positive Mental Attitude

There are plenty of things you can’t change at work, like the people you work with or the fact that the printer is broken again. The one thing you can change is how much you let these things bother you.

Bosses like people who are calm, rational and upbeat—those who diffuse tensions in the workplace, not get all grouchy and go around slamming doors.

Studies show that people who maintain a sunny disposition have better relationships at work, are happier in their jobs and make better decisions than those who whine and complain. Some suggest that a positive mental attitude can also make you live longer—which means it’s beneficial for every area of your life![1]

It’s not always easy to keep a “glass half full” mentality when work is stressful and the deadlines are piling up. But there are some things you can do to help maintain a positive attitude. Laughing at your unfortunate circumstances keeps the work environment positive, and taking “sanity” breaks can help you keep your cool in high-pressure situations.

Managers look for positive mental attitude in a team member that is ready for a promotion, so it really does pay to keep your cool in challenging situations.

5. A Strong Work Ethic

People with a strong work ethic are committed to the role, persevere when things get tough and are inspired by challenge. These people are ambassadors for the organization, and will always be seen as top talent and ideal candidates.

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If you can exhibit this skill, then expect to be seen as a great candidate, eligible for new opportunities and positions throughout your career.

Since a strong work ethic can mean different things to different people, it helps to show specific examples of your exceptional work ethic during a performance appraisal or interview. For instance, you might talk about:

  • A time when you persisted in the face of challenges and did not shy away from hard work.
  • How you volunteered to help with projects even though these tasks did not form part of your job description.
  • The networking, workplace learning and skills betterment you’ve undertaken, which shows ambition and drive (people with a strong work ethic have those qualities in spades).
  • How you own your mistakes and never, ever point the finger of blame at others.

For help with building a strong work ethic, check out these tips: How to Build a Reliable Work Ethic

6. Public Speaking

Who’s terrified of public speaking? Pretty much everyone, since public speaking is America’s number one fear, ahead of death at number five and loneliness at number seven.

Yet, according to Warren Buffett, mastering this one skill you could increase your personal value by 50 percent.[2] That’s huge!

If you’re not natural at public speaking, you’re in good company. Buffett had to work hard to overcome his stage fright and once dropped out of a public-speaking course before it started—because he was afraid of public speaking! He eventually realized that he needed to build up his confidence by just doing it; over and over in front of small groups.

For a more structured approach, Toastmasters International teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a variety of pathways. Membership of this non-profit looks good on your resume but the real payoff will come when you can put your newfound skills to use on the job or in the interview room.

Or, you can check out this advice: The Ultimate Public Speaking Tips to Hook and Impress Any Audience

7. Integrity

From a manager’s point of view, the two integrity skills that will set you apart are:

  • Always doing what you say you will do
  • Owning an error instead of minimizing or hiding it

…even when no one is around to check up on you.

There are lots of people who have climbed the ladder without scruples, but they are not the people who others trust, respect and support when promotion time comes around.

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Behaving with integrity is a safe and consistent way to enhance your reputation and achieve your professional goals.

8. Managing Your Time

Phone calls, texts, Slack pings, meetings, huddles, side projects, multitasking—we are busier today than any generation before us. There’s no denying the workplace is an incredibly distracting place to be.

A lot of us have traded effectiveness for busyness which we wear as a badge of honor, both as a proxy for productivity and to show our value to the company. But what bosses want, what they really, really want, is someone who actually gets stuff done on time.

Time management is not merely the art of being on time, but of managing your time so you focus on the projects that really matter and add value to the business. This means prioritizing well, sticking to schedules, delegating, and not getting distracted by tasks that are easier to perform or less important. It means planning ahead and learning when it’s appropriate to say no.

Time management can be a tough skill to maintain, but not a difficult one to pick up. Monitor your actions for a few days—how long do your tasks take to finish? What’s interrupting you? What causes you to lose focus? Once you have the answers to these questions, you can set a schedule for yourself to make sure you’re spending your time wisely and this valuable asset is never wasted.

These 20 Quick Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity are also great to try.

9. Assertiveness

In any workplace, you typically will find people with the following conflict styles:

  • Passive: Those who go out of their way to avoid conflict.
  • Passive-aggressive: Those who express their negative feelings through actions rather than words.
  • Aggressive: Those who respond to conflict in a hostile and rude manner. These people get their opinion heard but they won’t make any friends in the process.
  • Assertive: People who stick up for their rights while still respecting the rights of others.

Managers look for assertiveness above all other styles because it allows decisions to be made without conflict or alienating people.

How do you use this information for yourself?

It starts with understanding your personality so you can anticipate how you will react when conflict arises and address your own shortcomings. Then, you can start influencing the team for top results, and securing your own career advancement in the process.

Learn how to be assertive and gain respect:

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How to Be Assertive and Stand up for Yourself the Smart Way

10. Creative Thinking

LinkedIn recently analyzed over 50,000 skills that employers search for when looking for candidates to find out what skills are currently in demand.[3] Taking the number-one slot on the 2019 soft skills list was creativity: the ability to solve problems and think outside the box.

Creativity is about bringing fresh, and sometimes unorthodox, ideas to the table. This helps companies to innovate, and companies that do not innovate will not survive very long.

How do you showcase your creative thinking skills? The golden rule is to participate.

Be brave and share your ideas during group brainstorming sessions. Volunteer to run a society, networking event or recruitment drive. Ask “what if” questions: “What if we add this information to the client welcome pack?” “What if we eliminate step 3 from the process?”

These activities demonstrate that you’re prepared to go beyond “business as usual” towards creative problem solving—an ability that will serve you every day, all throughout your career.

You can learn to unleash your creativity power:

What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

Final Thoughts

The good news? Every item on this soft skills list can be learned. Although you may feel lacking in certain areas, taking an inventory of your strengths and weaknesses will allow you to focus in on the areas that you’ll benefit from developing.

So take an inventory of your personality, skills, and talents. This will give you a baseline for your communication style, attitude to change, conscientiousness and more. You can then identify your weak areas and develop strategies for improving your team-building, assertiveness and conflict skills.

The better news? The effort is worth it. Developing your soft skills opens the door to a new job or a promotion, and helps you succeed once you get there.

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Featured photo credit: Rachael Gorjestani via unsplash.com

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