Imagine you have taken over the leadership role in a team. You are pleased with virtually everybody you have inherited. But one person is falling short of the mark. Now it is decision time.
You must decide whether or not to persist with the person. If you want to continue working with the person, you will need to give them some clear messages. You will also give them every opportunity to succeed.
Let’s explore how to go through these steps.
1) You can clarify what somebody in this role must deliver and decide whether the person has the potential to succeed.
Start by identifying what you believe somebody in this role should be delivering. Clarify what would be the picture of success. Ask yourself:
“What are the specific results an ‘A’ player would be delivering in this role? What are the actual words the customers would be saying about the service an ‘A’ player would be giving? What would their colleagues be saying about their professional standards? What would I be saying?”
Try tackling the exercise on this theme. Describe the specific results an 'A’ player would be delivering. Try completing the following sentences.
Clarify the person’s potential. Bearing in mind your picture of success, ask yourself:
“To what extent is the person delivering these results today? How would I rate them on a scale 0 – 10? What is their potential? Do they have the right attitude and ability? Given the right coaching, what rating do I think they can achieve? Can they go beyond 7/10?”
Considering your answers, then ask yourself the following questions.
* Do I believe the person has the potential to achieve the required rating?
* Do I believe the person is actually more suited to another role – inside or outside the business – where they can deliver at least a 7/10?
Make a decision. You are looking for the person to achieve at least 7+/10. Otherwise it will be extremely difficult. Based on your answers, decide whether or not you want to help the person to master the particular role.
(Morality is crucial. If you want the person to move on, it is vital that you have previously given them a clear message about improving their performance. Otherwise the bad news comes out of the blue, leaving them with little chance to bridge the gaps.)
Try tackling the exercise on this theme.
First, write the name of the person to whom you may need to give a tough message.
Second, describe in summary what an ‘A’ player in this role would be delivering.
Third, describe the highest rating that you believe the person can achieve. Do this on a scale 0 – 10.
Try completing the following exercise.
Let’s imagine that you decide to work with the person on improving their performance. This takes us to the next step.
2) You can make clear contracts with the person about whether they want to achieve the picture of success.
You may then wish to go through the following stages.
a) Set-up the meeting and position it properly.
Contact the person. Explain that you want to talk about how to continue to improve their performance.
Say it is a session about growing into a role – it is not a ‘Goodbye’ meeting. (Don’t be afraid to say farewell to people, but there is a lot of work that can be done before such an exit.)
b) Start the meeting by welcoming the person and explain that you want to do a ‘reality check’.
Describe what you plan to cover in the session. Explain that you will explore what the person does well and what they can improve.
You will also share your picture of success regarding what somebody in their role would be delivering. You will then invite them to consider the possible options moving forward. Explain that, while you are aiming for a positive outcome, the session won’t always be easy.
Some messages may be tough to take on board. Your overall goal is, however, to get wins for both them and the business.
c) Ask the person to do some self-evaluation.
Invite them to evaluate their own performance. Listen carefully. Ask for examples where appropriate. You need to understand their picture.
If it is helpful, give positive but honest feedback regarding their successes. But there will be hard news to deliver, so communicate this by moving onto the next stage.
d) Give your picture of success about what an ‘A’ player in this role would be delivering.
Talk about the desired outcome, because people must have something to aspire to in the future. Do not harangue them with details; otherwise it is easy to get into an argument. Give them clear messages about:
The specific results an ‘A’ player in this
role would be delivering would be:
The actual words the customers would be saying about
the service an ‘A’ player would be giving them would be:
The actual words colleagues would be saying
an ‘A’ player’s professional standards would be:
The actual words I would be
saying about an ‘A’ player would be:
e) Invite them to evaluate their own performance in relation to the picture of success and, if appropriate, repeat the reality check.
Ask them: “On a scale 0 – 10, how do you presently rate yourself in delivering such results? What do you think you must do to boost the scores?”
Have a short discussion about their self-evaluation. If appropriate, share your ratings of their performance.
f) Consider taking a ‘time out’ at this point. Before doing so, however, explain that they can choose their way forward.
Invite the person to take time reflecting on the possible ways forward. For example: You can meet in two days to explore the options. (You do not have to adjourn for such a long time. A short break might also do the trick.)
Why take a time out? If the tough news is unexpected, a person may get stuck in denial. Don’t get locked in arguments about details. Give them time to lick their wounds. The aim is for them to take ownership for deciding their future route.
Explain that they do have choices and each one has consequences. For example:
- They can ignore the reality check.
- They can argue about details, say you are wrong and seek another opinion.
- They can go through the motions of taking ideas on board, but continue as before.
- They can create a plan for focusing on the role and achieving an agreed picture of success.
- They can explore other options in the business. For example, there may be roles where they are more likely to achieve a 10/10.
Let’s imagine the person returns saying: “I want to try to deliver the required results.” Then go onto the next step.
3) You can work with the person to help them to achieve the picture of success.
One approach is to work with them to create a ‘Coaching Contract’. This should be written by the person and cover the following areas.
* The specific goals they want to achieve.
* The pluses and minuses involved in working to achieve the goals.
* The steps they will take to play their part in achieving their goals.
* The help they would like to reach the goals.
* The specific measures that will show they have reached the goals.
You can then work together to fulfil the contract and achieve the agreed picture of success.
Providing the person has the ‘will’, they may be able to learn the skill. But what if they are not successful? For example, they may decide to leave or you may decide they will never get beyond 6/10 in the role.
If so, help the person to move onto other things, inside or outside the business. Looking back at your work together, however, you will probably have given them a good opportunity to succeed.
So how many people can you work with in this intensive way? Looking back at the super teams I have worked with, the leaders were fair and gave clear messages up-front. It was then up to people whether they wanted to participate.
The leaders then spent no more 5% of their time adopting this approach. Any more time spent meant they were falling into being a social work team, rather than a super team.
Try tackling the exercise on this theme.
* Describe the specific person to whom you may want to give a tough message.
* Describe how you can give the messages in a tough but fair way.
* Describe how you can give the person the opportunity to decide if they want to work towards an agreed picture of success.
* Describe how you can then work with the person if they choose to take this route and are serious about achieving the agreed goals.
You can then give people tough but fair messages about whether they want to make their best contribution to the team. Try completing the following exercise.