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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Transform Your Poor Performers into High Achievers

Confronting poor performers in your organization can be nerve-wracking, difficult, and confusing. But according to author Dave Anderson, it is possible to approach these conversations with love, respect, and the promise of improvement while boosting your business in the process.
Hoboken, NJ (June 2011)—Confronting poor performers: Of all the responsibilities that come along with leadership, it’s not likely to be among your favorites, and yet, it is among the most important things you’ll do for your organization. Chances are, you approach delivering this sort of unpleasant feedback in one of two ways: You wimp out and avoid it altogether, thus sparing everyone an uncomfortable scene (but perpetuating unproductive behaviors). Or you don’t hold back at all and let people have it—those poor performers will either shape up or ship out (you hope!), and if it’s the latter, then good riddance to a weak employee who couldn’t hack it. 
But according to author Dave Anderson, there is a middle ground when it comes to confronting poor performers.
Confront with class. Chances are, at some point you’ve been called on a mistake in a way that left you smarting. Whether you were publically scolded in a meeting or belittled to make someone else appear more competent, you probably learned your lesson…but you also felt embarrassed, ashamed, and upset. Taking the high road when initiating confrontation includes opting to discuss matters with a poor performer in private rather than hauling his wrongdoings onto the carpet in front of his colleagues.
“Our objective as leaders is to develop people, not punish them,” Anderson explains. “To help a team member fulfill her potential, you might need to give her a vital ingredient she’s currently lacking, whether that’s knowledge, structure, or direction. She’ll be much more apt to take that instruction to heart if she feels valued instead of hurt and resentful. By taking the time to have a sincere, private conversation rather than tossing out criticism in front of the whole team, you’re communicating a very respectful reproof that is likely to take root and spark a sincere change.”
Nix favoritism. In organizations across the globe, there’s “that guy”: the one who can do no wrong in the boss’s eyes, and who blithely flouts the rules that bind everyone else. Often, this person also happens to be a top performer. Well, he knocks it out of the park 99 percent of the time, the logic goes, so he deserves to be cut some extra slack. Not so fast, wannabe-benevolent boss! By allowing a top performer to violate values, exhibit selfishness, or break the rules without rebuke, you’re undermining your organization’s culture and your own credibility.
Make sure the correction fits the “crime.” One of the marks of being a good leader is realizing that not all failures are created equally—and then responding accordingly. The fact is, while performance shortfalls are significant and must be called out, issues that stem from a toxic attitude, a lack of respect for values, or an overly inflated ego must be corrected much more forcibly. You see, knowledge insufficiencies can be easily filled, but character issues must be addressed and monitored like the deadly diseases they are.
Beware of committing a false kindness. Some well-intentioned leaders believe that with enough positive reinforcement they’ll be able to forgo confrontational talk altogether. What these aspiring Mr. Nice Guys fail to realize is that by not confronting followers who stray, they’re actually showing a lack of caring.
“Skipping tough feedback and unpleasant consequences is showing a false kindness, because this tactic just results in even more poor performances,” asserts Anderson. “Instead, the thing to do is to ‘shovel the piles while they’re small’—confront bad behaviors with fairness and firmness as soon as they start.
Choose your battles wisely. Just as it’s important to distinguish between “innocent” and “serious” missteps, it’s important to know when to rebuke and when to simply respond. For example, if a reliable team member who’s never late rushes in tardy one day, it would probably be ill-advised for a leader to shout out sarcastically, “Good afternoon!” A better and more productive response would be to ask—genuinely—if everything is all right. (On the other hand, tardiness from a repeat offender would merit a different response.)
Follow up with follow-through. Giving confrontational feedback and then failing to offer further instructions or encouragement is like going to the doctor for a diagnosis and then refusing to take your medication. In both cases, you can’t realistically expect positive, lasting change to take effect because you dropped the ball after taking the initial action.
“Offering appropriate guidance to a team member is just as important as the initial conversation,” confirms Anderson. “It gives you an opportunity to reaffirm, further direct, and eventually bring closure to your prior instruction. Think about it this way: Where would we be if God didn’t continue to lead us back to the correct path again…and again…and again?”
Don’t dig up the past. Especially when you’re upset with someone, it’s tempting to take every mistake she’s ever made and throw them back in her face to underscore just how justified your anger is. When you’re confronting a team member, though, it’s crucial to count to ten, take a deep breath, or drink a glass of water in lieu of unleashing a verbal torrent, because rehashing past sins only creates bitterness and breaks trust.
“Ultimately, confronting poor performers will never be enjoyable,” concludes Anderson. “In fact, it will almost always be nerve-wracking, uncomfortable, and maybe even downright upsetting,
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Making It Stick: Five Rules for Delivering Effective Feedback
Part of being a leader is telling your team members how their performances are measuring up. Whether you’re handing out praise or facing a you-need-to-improve conversation, here are five tips excerpted from How to Lead by THE BOOK: Proverbs, Parables, and Principles to Tackle Your Toughest Business Challenges (Wiley, 2011, ISBN: 978-0-470-93628-3, $24.95, that will help you make the most of your feedback.
Rule #1: Don’t delay. Give feedback as quickly after an action as possible. Delayed consequences lessen the impact of your message and can render feedback as little more than an afterthought.
Rule #2: Be specific. Be precise rather than general. Jesus did not say, “This guy is impressive,” when speaking of the centurion, who believed that Jesus had the authority and power to heal his sick servant from afar, without seeing him in person. Rather, Jesus specifically pointed out exactly what was impressive: the centurion’s faith. When you are specific, you accomplish two things:
You let other people know that you care enough about them and their performance to pay attention to precisely what they did.
When you reinforce someone’s specific behavior, that person is more likely to repeat that same behavior.
Rule #3: Share praise. Patting someone on the back is not likely to make that person lazy. Sure, there are a handful of sluggards who use positive reinforcement as an excuse to crawl into a hammock and take a nap, but the majority will try even harder to please you in the future and to live up to the expectations they have created through solid past performance.
Rule #4: Know your audience. It’s important to customize your feedback to the individual, because you’ve got to know people in order to move them to action. Temper the style and tone of your feedback depending on who is on the receiving end—without clouding your message, that is. Paul gives his young mentee, Timothy, excellent advice in this regard: “Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father; younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, with all purity” (1 Tim. 5:1-2).
Rule #5: Be consistent. Failing to confront an unsatisfactory behavior invites more of the same. This is because the absence of a consequence for a derelict act, in effect, reinforces it.
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About the Author:
Dave Anderson is author of How to Lead by THE BOOK: Proverbs, Parables, and Principles to Tackle Your Toughest Business Challenges (Wiley, 2011, ISBN: 978-0-470-93628-3, $24.95,, is president of Dave Anderson’s Learn to Lead, and has given over 1,000 leadership presentations in thirteen countries. He is also the author of How to Run Your Business by THE BOOK: A Biblical Blueprint to Bless Your Business; If You Don’t Make Waves, You’ll Drown; Up Your Business!; How to Deal with Difficult Customers; and the TKO business series, all from Wiley. He and his wife, Rhonda, are cofounders of The Matthew 25:35 Foundation, which helps feed, educate, and house under-resourced people throughout the world.
For more information, visit
About the Book:
How to Lead by THE BOOK: Proverbs, Parables, and Principles to Tackle Your Toughest Business Challenges (Wiley, 2011, ISBN: 978-0-470-93628-3, $24.95, is available at bookstores nationwide, major online booksellers, or directly from the publisher by calling 800-225-5945. In Canada, call 800-567-4797 
 Submitted by Dottie DeHart, DeHart & Company Public Relations


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