It would be great if every team member was a perennial MVP. But face it; some of the most promising talent can suddenly turn in a poor performance.
The world of professional sports is an example. Most professional athletes are privileged with through the roof salaries, but paychecks can’t guarantee consistent, excellent performance—or good behavior. Some have famously “crossed the line” or have failed to “carry the ball.”
The front line soldiers in dealing with poor performers and performances are leader/coaches. For example, behind the locker room doors, and in private offices, sports coaches use parenting and leadership skill, along with pointed words and tough love. The consequences are often announced publicly in minimalistic sentences that suggest they got their point across, such as, “We had a discussion about that.”
Leaders know that poor performance cannot be accepted. They kindly, but firmly and privately, use proven leadership methods to correct poor performance. You might add these 7 steps to your leadership repertoire.
1. GATHER THE FACTS. Misinformed actions are like gasoline on a bonfire. The best platform for making corrections is your personal observation. Any secondhand information must be thoroughly researched—from more than one source, if possible.
2. CONSIDER THE MOTIVES. Is the poor performance uncharacteristic? Are there insights from files or conversations that may offer an explanation? Keep them in mind when you think about your actions.
3. ADDRESS ISSUES SPECIFICALLY. Start with a face-to-face, open, heart-to-heart conversation—avoiding incendiary words like “I hear” or “You always.” Start fresh, treating the situation as if it were out of context for that person.
4. REINFORCE CORPORATE VALUES. Don’t assume team members know all the rules and customs. Have mission or policy statements in hand. And remember, you can’t “lay down the law” if there aren’t laws to begin with. It always pays to have policies.
5. EXPLAIN THE OPTIONS. Be honest about possible consequences, but be flexible. Work out a common ground, equitable solution. The team member you save now may be your supervisor later on!
6. EXPECT CORRECTED BEHAVIOR. Positive reinforcement is usually better than strict enforcement. Let the team member know you expect a course correction. Offer your help in their return to excellence.
7. AFFIRM CORRECTED BEHAVIOR. Follow up your meeting about a situation. When you observe improvement, let the team member know it. You are not only their supervisor, you are their friend.
Firm, specific, fair, and positive correction, mixed with loving affirmation, can be just the thing to turn a poor performer into a Hall-of-Famer.