In the last month 3 of our clients have, in varying ways, posed this question to us seeking help: “I can’t get Felicia to file her reports on time. I’ve talked to her about it over and over. We’ve given her time management training and coaching and she still can’t seem to get things done. How do I get her to do what I ask?” The answer is Fire ‘em up or Fire them out! You only have two choices. Regardless of the choice you make you must hold the person accountable for their actions or in Felicia’s case non action. Accountability is one of the hardest skills to master as a leader – but master it you must.
It’s time for some soul searching. Why might you find it hard to hold people’s feet to the fire? Is it fear? Fear of what? Which one of these fears is preventing you from building a culture of accountability:
Fear of not being liked. Everyone wants to be liked and some see taking a stand and drawing a line in the sand as demanding or even dictatorial. My response here is, as the boss, who else is going to demand excellence? There’s a difference between “liking” someone and “respecting” someone. As a leader you need respect.
Fear of conflict. Because getting wounded is a possibility in conflict you often take the path of least resistance. You just keep telling Felicia over and over to do what you need done and hope that one day she will change her spots. It’s the old fight or flight! As the leader, you actually control and reduce the level of conflict in your office by being decisive. Remember, non-performing employees negatively impact those around them and failure to face the conflict can create morale issues and reduce productivity through out your company.
Fear of the consequences. Establishing and enforcing consequences for non-performance are difficult but the real fear is what happens when you do enforce the consequences. Will the employee resign? Will I have to recruit, hire and train again?
All the policies, procedures and processes in the world won’t get recalcitrant under performing employees to perform as you expect. And by the way, neither will just training! You need a plan for accountability. So, what steps should you take to insure accountability, yours and theirs:
Begin with consequences. I firmly believe that if your employees don’t know or don’t believe there will be serious consequences to their actions, the rest of these steps are meaningless at best. Clearly communicate the consequences: “Felicia, here at Socks R Us, we believe that keeping our customers happy takes hard work from all our staff members. Failing to own your responsibilities and execute them effectively will jeopardize your employment."
Set clear, measurable expectations. Don’t be wishy washy and generalize with things like, “We need you to be proactive. We need you to respect your coworkers”. Be very clear: “Felicia at Socks Are Us, we believe that employees are happiest when they know exactly how to build customer loyalty. So, let’s be clear about what our customers and what I expect from you as our first female Sock Wrangler”. State the specifics. “Felicia your show respect for coworkers by supporting them not demeaning them with negative language. We require that you follow company policies and procedures such as our break time policy."
Secure their buy in. Get Felicia to verbally agree to her role and responsibilities and to agree that she understands the consequences of non-performance. Only time will tell if Felicia is really willing to own her performance, but at least you’ve laid the foundation.
Measure their performance. Consistent, formal performance evaluations are important for driving desired behavior but it is critical with sub-par performance.
Coach the person and give them actionable feedback. Give them opportunities to own the work, to improve or to “get it”. BUT THIS DOES NOT TAKE YEARS. If you have employees who have been with you longer than 12 months and despite coaching, mentoring, performance conversations and loads of positive feedback and reinforcement, they are still not performing beyond being barely adequate, then “fire ‘em out” cause “firing them up” isn’t working.
Hold yourself accountable. Strong leadership requires guts. Leadership ain’t for sissies. Being a good leader means doing the dirty work. It means you may not always be liked. It means overcoming your fears and taking action and it may mean firing someone.
Experience has demonstrated that there’s always a good person out there looking for work. Don’t let that fear inducing voice in your head tell you that “you’ll never find anyone good to replace Felicia. No one knows our industry, we’re unique”. After all, how good is Felicia anyway if she won’t do what you ask? Unless your business is rocket science or requires a PhD, an eager, smart, hard working, success oriented individual will trump Felicia any day. As long as your compensation is market driven, your business is respected and your product is desirable, you will find a better Sock Wrangler.
So let go of the fear. Stop losing money by allowing your non-performing employees to bully you into inaction. Take back your business!
Want to learn how to control conflict? Want to learn how to fire them up or fire them out? Give Catalytic Management a call.
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High Performing Organizations
The above book by
Andre deWaal lays out what it takes to become a high performing organization. His Five Factors that drive high performance are validated by years of research with companies across the globe. This is a must read for organization leaders.
The Five Factors driving high performance organizations:
Openness & Action Orientation
Does your organization qualify as high perfomring? Find out. Read the book by deWaal, What Makes A High Performance Organization.