When Paul weeded out some non-performers in his organisation, his team breathed a collective sigh of relief. He had exhausted the carrot tactics of encouragement and positive feedback but had deferred the stick approach, thinking that his team may react badly. On the contrary, once he acted decisively, they were upbeat and told him that it was about time. What Paul had not realised was that there was a rising tide of discontent amongst his team members. The high-performers were increasingly resentful that they were being asked to do more while the non-performers seemed to languish without apparent consequences.
In hindsight, Paul realised that he had been loading up the people that he knew he could trust to deliver, while going around the non-performers.
We like to think that everyone in the workplace is engaged and that they only need to be developed into better versions of themselves. But the data suggests otherwise. Gallup aggregated data collected from 2014, 2015 and 2016 across 155 countries which indicates that just 15% of employees worldwide are engaged in their job. Two-thirds are not engaged, and 18% are actively disengaged. In Paul’s experience, he was more than up to the challenge of shifting the needle for the disengaged group, but it was the actively disengaged cohort that he needed to deal with. It was not that they lacked the technical knowledge or skills for their job. It was more that their values and behaviours did not match those of his organisation.
Dealing with non-performers is one of the more difficult tasks of leadership. But it is like cleaning the leaves out of your gutters at home – it can be messy work but things flow better when it is done. Paul had been postponing the difficult conversations he needed to have but he was pleasantly surprised with the more positive mood in his team once he did. Susan Scott in her book, Fierce Conversations suggests seven valuable principles of such conversations.
1. Master the courage to interrogate reality.
2. Come out from behind yourself into the conversation and make it real.
3. Be here, prepared to be nowhere else.
4. Tackle your toughest challenge today.
5. Obey your instincts.
6. Take responsibility for your emotional wake.
7. Let silence do the heavy lifting.
Are you dealing with the non-performers?
Best regards, Brian
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