Turning Employees Around—What It Takes | Feedback Power

Under-performers are part of the landscape in any workplace. You know who they are and so does your boss.

None of us is perfect. Without guidance, it’s easy to adopt behaviors and habits acceptable to us that, ultimately, don’t wear well with others.

As employees we need feedback from day one. There is no better (or cheaper) way to teach us the skills and behaviors we need to be successful.

Performance feedback is one of the most important roles of any supervisors. It’s how problems are nipped in the bud, skills are polished, misbehavior is corrected, and a continuous performance growth culture is built.

Getting through 

Supervisors resist giving feedback because they’re uncertain about:

  • What to say
  • How employees will react
  • What to do if there’s pushback
  • Whether they’ll make matters worse

Employees resist feedback because they:

  • Don’t want to change
  • Don’t get it
  • Don’t respect their supervisor
  • Don’t see any upside or consequences

To make the situation stickier,  employees may perform exceptionally well in some areas like production but terribly in others like on teams.

As a supervisor you need all employees to deliver value in all aspects of their jobs. That’s what you’re paying them for. To accept poor performance in one area is to accept paying a full salary for only part of the job.

“Can you hear me now?” 

Delivering feedback is one thing. Getting employees to hear and act on it is another.

That means you need to:

  • Follow up on your feedback to make sure it’s being implemented
  • Reinforce it through repetition, review, and discussion
  • Reward or deliver consequences based commitments

Feedback only works when you have your employee’s attention. It starts with a conversation where you and your employee talk to each other. Each needs to hear what the other is saying and come to agreement on next steps.

It takes real commitment from both supervisor and employee. And often it takes repeated effort, time, and sometimes consequences.

Michael Vick, a dramatic case 

Michael Vick was a high performing employee as the quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons football team. He could throw and also scramble for yardage like few others.  Vick was a superstar who came from a rough background where he, as a kid and young man, he struggled to avoid the vortex of the streets.

After he went into the pros, he remained tethered to some unsavory people from his “old life.” For years he received feedback from coaches and others about his need to break those ties. He didn’t heed the feedback.

In 2007, he was implicated in a dog fighting ring and pleaded guilty to federal felony charges that resulted in 21 months in jail. Feedback didn’t get his attention but the consequences of not listening did.

Vick had to come to grips with what he’d done and turn it into advocacy. He had to restart his NFL career and recover from bankruptcy. Coach Andy Reid of the Philadelphia Eagles gave him a job as a back-up QB in 2009 where he faced relentless negative public reaction. It was another round of feedback, often painful,vitriolic, and deserved.

It took positive performance to turn things around for Vick.

On Sunday, September 11, 2011, Michael Vick snapped the ball as the starting QB for the Eagles, winning the game 33-13 over the St. Louis Rams. He ran for 98 yards and threw two touchdown passes. He’s now playing with a multi-million-dollar contact, his life clearly on the upswing.

Michael Vick took a long time to hear it and paid a big price for ignoring feedback.

Hearing feedback pays 

It’s one thing to listen to feedback and another to hear it. It’s one thing to hear feedback and another to act on it.

Good feedback generally comes from people who care about us—people who want us to perform well, so we can experience success and growth.

Each of us is both a giver and receiver of feedback. We are positioned to help others turn around and ourselves too. There’s power in feedback. Let’s commit to using it well.

Photo from Matthew Straubmuller via Flickr

Employees Underperforming? Get Their Attention! | Supervise for Accountability

Work’s piling up. You’re worn out. Finally, you get the okay to hire.  You’re pumped. Relief is in sight. Truth is: Employees are work. Actually, they’re your job.

Employees, especially new ones,  mean that you’re faced with:

  • Job orientation and training
  • “What do I do now” questions
  • Reluctance to make decisions when you’re not around
  • “I didn’t think that was my job” disclaimers 

So where’s your relief? You’re not totally free of the work you hired for, because it’s still in your head, and the people you hired to do it feel like an added burden.

Take heart. The time you invest developing your employees will deliver big rewards.

Be clear about employee accountabilities. 

The biggest mistake is hiring people to complete a string of tasks. Look at your job descriptions. My guess is that they describe responsibilities, duties, and/or tasks.

If you want employees to lighten your load and add value to your business, hold them accountable for results. That means the tasks/duties they complete must be the means to the ends that you need.

Here’s how you link tasks and accountabilities (also referred to as results or outcomes):

  • Process customer claims (task) within 48 hours, ensuring a positive interactive experience for the customer (result)
  • Maintain product inventory (task), ensuring availability to meet monthly demand (result)
  • Market services to clients (task), averaging 5% conversion to sales monthly (result)
  • Complete administrative reports (task) within the first 5 days of the new month (result) 

Employees need to know what they are expected to contribute to the success of the business. It’s not just about being busy doing tasks. It’s about doing work that counts.

The next big question, of course, is: “How do supervisors and business owners motivate employees to do their best work?”

Being “in” on things matters most. 

Repeatedly, studies have been done on what motivates employees. We always think that must be money, but it isn’t. Actually, we all want to feel like we’re important enough to be in the know.

Supervisors who want to bring out the best in their employees share relevant information and make them part of what’s going on.

They can pump up the motivation and ability of employees to do their “best” when they:

  • Engage employees in decision-making about things that will affect them (i.e., scheduling, work processes, equipment purchases, working conditions)
  • Involve them in the root cause analysis of work that “went wrong” (i.e., customer problems, accidents, equipment failure, miscommunications)
  • Ask them for ideas, innovations, and insights (i.e., new products, procedures, work processes)
  • Give them visibility with customers, vendors, suppliers, and management
  • Take them to see similar business operations in other companies or to visit departments they impact in their own company
  • Give them business cards, reminding them that they are representatives of the company and impact its brand

 Talk to your employees. 

Reinforce each employee’s accountabilities monthly. That means a face-to-face dialogue about:

  • how they are doing
  • what they may be uncertain about
  • how ready they are to take on more responsibilities
  • what help they need from you, and
  • what they can do to get better 

This is where the two of you talk about your expectations and how you can  support to each other. It is not a performance review;  it a conversation.

Becoming the “best” is a team effort. 

Setting the bar attainably high is the best thing you can do for your business and your employees. Employees who think they’re being set up for failure won’t make the effort. Those who believe their supervisor is counting on them to succeed will knock themselves out to deliver. If that isn’t the case, then that employee is the wrong fit and may need to move on.

Supervisors who use the smart moves for achieving business fitness with their employees create an individual development culture that delivers success all around. Nothing beats an employee team making it happen!

What approaches have you experienced that helped employees become their “best”?  What made them work? Any cautions? Thanks.