For my regular readers of my blog – this is a longer than usual entry. Here is why . . . . . . .
I taught my class on Leadership / Followership (Building Organizational Performance Through Teamwork and Understanding) at the Holland Chamber of Commerce on Thursday (May 19th) and pledged to the participants that I would blog answers to any questions they had that could not be answered in class. Here is the question and my answer – for clarification make a comment and we will continue the discussion . . . .
Question: How do you motivate a follower to move up to the next level(s) without influencing, or dragging down, the others on the team? Example: A Minimizer to a Doer?
Answer: This is a big question, so I will focus on the toughest situation, which is working with a Minimizer to move to a Doer. (Here is a link to a post where I define my 5 Levels of Followership)
First question: Start by asking yourself if this person has demonstrated a positive attitude and commitment to the organization. Is it someone you want to have around? If the anser is “No” or Not really”, then follow whatever process you have, but make plans to move the employee out of your organization. Minimizers take energy that could be given to other, more valuable people in your organization. If the answer is yes I want to keep them read on.
Part 1: Understand the Situation (especially your role)
My first thought is to recognize the role of the leader in this situation. The basic information that people need about their role is: (these are from the Gallup Q12 that are explained in the book First, Break All The Rules)
- Clear understanding of their job duties and measures of success.
- The tools (skills, training, support) to do the job well.
- An opportunity to do what they do best every day.
The first question is one that you define for them, and it would be a good exercise for you to write down the 5 or 6 key things you expect them to do in their role. Question 2 is one you should address together based on your knowledge of what specific things they need to know and their knowledge of what they need (or might be uncomfortable with).
The challenge you will have is in the conversation to get this information on the table and have a great discussion about it. As a leader, your key role is to get this information on the table in such a way that it can be dealt with and decisions can be made.
Part 2 – The Traps
The second issue is around the harsh realities of these situations. In your question you mention wanting to avoid dragging the team down. Here are three things to think about:
- If there is a Minimizer on the team everyone knows it and are probably waiting for you to deal with it. Your inaction is having a negative impact on the Trust they have in you as a leader.
- The Minimizer probably does not know they are thought of that way. I know leaders always struggle with this, but after being pulled into dozens of situations like this, I can safely say that at least 90% of people being fired or getting talked with about their lack of performance are surprised when it happens.
- Ask yourself the questions Am I ready to let them go if their performance does not improve and Am I willing to put in some hard work for the next 60-90 days to help them be successful? These are the two questions I ask in choosing to help save someone. If either question is NO then it is a situation that cannot be fixed so live with it. If it is a relative (as happens with small businesses) – Maybe pay the person to stay home and get on with work. This sounds crazy, but if they are taking energy from you and making mistakes that are costing the organization dollars it is too expensive to have them around.
Part 3 – A solution:
1. Meet to get the issue on the table. The key to this conversation is to make your observations known about their performance. When sharing your feedback, focus on the situation and not the person. When sharing the performance use the format “Here is the behavior I see, Here is the impact, and here is how it makes me feel. Any conflict management book uses this as the basic outline. Here is an example of how this might sound in a sentence.
Joe, you have worked here a long time and I have appreciated your dedication to this organization. I have observed a few things recently in your performance that I want to talk about. Last Tuesday a customer called with a problem and I heard you say “That is the only answer I have so if you do not like it, tough.” The outcome of that discussion is the customer has taken all of their business to a competitor. I am feeling frustrated because we worked hard to land that customer and keeping customers happy is critical to the future success of the business.
A great resource to explore this discussion is Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott.
They have two things to do in step 1 before things move on: 1) Take ownership for the performance issues you point out 2) Express and demonstrate the desire to make the changes necessary to be successful. If these both do not happen (give them 24 hrs to think about it if necessary) then there is no sense keeping them.
A key piece for you in this conversation is to be open to their feedback on things you could be doing differently that would help them be successful. Maybe they need weekly check-ins or you have not been really prompt about returning calls. It could also be that they are in the wrong role. Be willing to listen and consider things they bring up.
2. Create a plan for their success that includes: 1) Short term(1-4 weeks) and long term (3-6 month) goals 2) Area of focus to improve their performance – Build Trust, Build Focus, Build Confidence, Build Rhythm 3) Needs they express (in areas of Support and Personal Development)
This is not an area where there is a set recipe. The key is to ask yourself the critical question up front (do you want to keep them) and then get the truth(of their performance) on the table and Build Trust by demonstrating that you want them to be successful.
Here is a link to a trU Tips and a video on the topic of dealing with low performers that might also be helpful.
Great question – thanks for asking.