“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
~George Bernard Shaw

performanceA common problem with many of my clients and with new supervisors, is dealing with performance issues of their staff.

My first question is always: “Do they know specifically what the expectation is and do they know what success looks like? Moreover, did you put anything in writing?

The answer is usually, “No, I didn’t realize I needed to and was hoping the problem would go away. Why don’t they just change after I’ve talked to them about it?”

I realize that we all think that people will modify their behavior to meet the standards that we set for them, but in reality our standards are sometimes not all that clear. In addition, sometimes they either don’t know how to reach them, or they simply don’t want to.

Here are 5 tips for dealing with your problem staff:

1) Be very clear about the behavior that needs to change. What do they specifically need to stop doing and what specifically do they need to start doing in order to be successful? Many supervisors focus on the time spent at work, how much time their people are putting in, or how much time they are absent. Instead, focus on the deliverables and exactly where they are falling short. Be very specific about what needs to be delivered and by when. This is much more concrete and measureable, than “you need to put more effort and initiative into your work”.

2) Be very clear about the time frame that they have to make the change.Be reasonable about the time frame and give them the time to show improvement. This won’t happen overnight and will take some coaching and some accountability.

3) Be very clear about what will happen if they are not able to make the behavior changes successfully.This one gets overlooked frequently. What will happen if they don’t improve? Will they be fired? Will it just continue as it is? Are there any consequences? This needs to be clear and there must be consequences if you want them to take the expected behavior changes seriously.

4) As a leader, it’s your job to define what success is for your reports. Don’t be afraid to paint them a clear picture and be direct about it.

5) Once the pressure is off, they may fall back into old habits. Make it clear that there are no second chances here. You don’t get two warnings. Moreover, you get one warning with clear expectations of the behaviors that need to change, the deliverables and the timeframe. Once completed successfully, it is expected that this problem will not reoccur. If it does—-you can’t babysit it again and it’s obviously not the right fit for them.

If you have these types of issues often, call me. I’d love to help you define the processes and the communications you need to make the process and your organization more successful.