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Poor performer? The four big questions you need to ask

In my experience, the most common issue holding back performance is due to having the wrong people in key roles. Usually there is a question mark already in your mind but a hope that the individual will “come good”. But “hope” alone is never a good strategy.

Quickly assessing if someone can make it in a role is a critical skill, particularly when they appear to be underperforming. You need to decide what needs to change, the situation or the individual, as fast as possible. The longer you take to act, the longer it will be a drag on your performance and a thorn in the side of your team.

Here are the four questions that will help you quickly make that call:

1. Clarity

Exactly what you’d like them to be doing that they’re not? Be really specific. Write it down. Now ask yourself if you think they know this. If not, the first step is to talk to them to give them clarity. Approach it by genuinely trying to help them – be open that you want them to succeed. Nine times out of ten, this will give them the boost they need. But if they clearly know what’s required, the next question is:

2. Will

Do they actually want to do it? You can train skill but you can’t train passion – you need to recruit it. Throwing incentives at them for motivation isn’t the answer. There are only two choices. If the “area of disinterest” isn’t core to their job, you could carve it out and give it to someone else, or they could delegate or subcontract it themselves. If it is core, you need to make a change. But if the desire to do it is there, it’s more likely a question of:

3. Skill

Could they do it if their life depended on it? If the answer is yes, it’s not a skills issue. If it’s a no, you need to look for the three qualities that will help you decide if it’s worth investing in them to develop the skills: 1. Passion (are they keen to develop); 2. Precedent (have they shown you they can learn); 3. Capacity (do you genuinely believe they can learn and do this stuff). However, if they clearly know what to do, they genuinely want to do it, and they already have the skills, it can only be:

4. Priority

Why aren’t they giving it the focus it needs? It’s either because too many other things are genuinely higher priorities, or they aren’t giving this area the priority it deserves. In a battle between urgent and important, urgent always wins. The good news is that this is the easiest one to fix.

Bottom line

Most of the time, underperformance is due to poor communication, either of responsibilities or priorities. When it’s genuinely an issue of capability or attitude, having open, direct conversations are often a relief to both parties. The single most important thing though, is to make that call and to resolve to act, quickly.

To find out how to make the important stuff more urgent click here

To read more about the “power of passion” click here

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