When a valued employee is flagging, how do you get them back on track?
“Communication – the human connection – is the key to personal and career success” – Paul J. Meyer
Make it a conversation
So a member of your team hasn’t been performing as well as they usually do. You’ll need to address the issue sooner rather than later, for everyone’s sake. Having to initiate these kinds of discussions is nobody’s idea of fun, but you can achieve positive outcomes if you approach it in the right way. This is a helpful conversation, not a ‘dressing down’. It’s super important to create an atmosphere of open dialogue and mutual respect with full consideration for the dignity of the person concerned. Here are a few pointers to keep in mind:
Know your people
Having a relationship with individual team members through consistent engagement is a must. According to a recent Gallup poll, those teams who score in the top 20% in engagement realize a 41% reduction in absenteeism, and 59% less turnover. Engaged employees show up every day with passion, purpose, presence, and energy. And if you as a manager are engaged, you’ll know your people and you’ll spot issues a mile off. Regular, open, two-way communication makes it easier to broach issues when they arise. Don’t be the boss who only appears when there’s something to criticize, be the leader who is always there.
Nobody likes to be ‘blindsided’. If there’s an issue to be addressed, communicate this fact in advance of a meeting to allow for preparation. Sometimes a casual ‘hey, is everything OK? Let’s have a chat later today,’ will do. Of course, if the matter is more serious or recurring and HR involvement is unavoidable, a more formal notification is necessary. But let’s assume that you can help your team member get back on track with a bit of gentle guidance that averts any needless drama.
One study found that while 92% of CEOs feel their organization is empathetic, only 50% of their employees say their CEO is empathetic. Putting yourself in the shoes of the other person is a great way to help set the right tone in any situation. How would you like to be treated if the roles were reversed? You wouldn’t want to be berated in front of your colleagues. You’d want to be listened to (a Salesforce study found that employees who feel their voice is heard are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work). You’d prefer to be given the benefit of the doubt. You’d like to be advised rather than told off. You’d appreciate kindness and guidance and direction. The person sitting opposite you, is you!
Be a leader, not a boss
Leaders gain loyalty not through fear but through understanding. A great manager brings out the best in their team not by ‘whipping them into line’ but by inspiring them to be better. They don’t discipline, they mentor. Your job is to help your team members recognize why things have gone wrong and how to avoid making the same mistakes again. As Denzel Washington says, “Show me a successful individual and I’ll show you someone who had real positive influences in his or her life. I don’t care what you do for a living – if you do it well I’m sure there was someone cheering you on or showing the way. A mentor.”
When issues are resolved and improvements in performance are seen, a gesture of recognition can have a massive impact on your team member’s confidence in themselves and in you. Something as simple and budget-friendly as a gift card can speak volumes about the fact that you appreciate their efforts to get back on track - and that you’re an engaged leader, a mentor, with their best interests at heart.
“There is no respect for others without humility in one's self.” – Henri Frederic Amiel