Poor Performance: Prevention Better Than Cure

Posted: 02/10/2015

What if, despite persistent efforts, your employees are underperforming? If you look to replace them, there’ll be costs involved – not to mention disruption to the business. Furthermore, there’s no guarantee their replacements will perform any better. So what are your choices? According to Jon Pratlett, a Neuroleadership expert, the best long ­term choice is prevention.

Ideally, preventing underperformance should start before you advertise a job. That’s when you need to think carefully about what you expect from a new employee and spell it out in a detailed job description. You also need to spell out how performance will be measured.

Once someone is on board, regular feedback will prevent small problems from developing into big ones and can help people feel more confident and secure. When you’re not sure whether you’re doing the right thing you’re likely to feel anxious and threatened. As leaders, we need to create clear boundaries and give clear instructions, and that means taking responsibility for the quality of our own communications and relationships.

Being brain friendly

Everything we think, feel and do starts with the brain. From an evolutionary point of view, the brain works on one key motivating principle – to minimise danger and maximise reward. If your management style takes this into account, you have a much better chance of keeping your employees engaged and motivated. Leaders who understand the kinds of behaviours that provoke a reward or threat response, and act accordingly, are more likely to lead a productive team.

Research suggests there are five social needs that, if addressed, can help – the acronym CARER makes them easy to remember.

  • Certainty – providing clarity and transparency to leave little doubt
  • Autonomy – providing choices where appropriate
  • Relatedness, or getting on with people around you?
  • Equity – treating people fairly
  • Reputation – maintaining/elevating status

They all interact so, for example, a micromanaging boss will undermine an employee’s autonomy, reputation and equity, and create a multiplying effect. This type of behaviour may lead the employee to feel uncertain about their tenure in their role.

Conversely, when you’re a CARER, you’re continually building trust by meeting many of these drives. This can help to offset any issues that arise.

Round pegs in round holes

People are far more likely to perform well when they’re operating within their behavioural comfort zone. If you have a people person sitting in front of a computer all day with no human interaction they may end up frustrated, miserable and ineffective. And someone who is naturally reserved and task ­orientated isn’t necessarily going to be good at sales.

The DISC (Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Conscientiousness) behavioural styles assessment, which can be done online or face-to-face, is a quick and simple way of gaining insight into someone’s likely behaviour in a particular context. This could provide an indication of where an employee is likely to work most effectively.

If you complete the assessment yourself it could also help you to understand your own behaviour and that of others around you, alerting you to people you may clash with. Awareness of different behavioural styles, coupled with practice, can help you to become more flexible and to modify your own style to better match theirs. This is a highly effective strategy which often catches people off guard.

The end of the road

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, an issue can’t be resolved. If someone has a deeply­entrenched belief that you are the enemy you could face an upward battle to change their mindset. Other people may simply be not a good fit. If you’ve been following the CARER principles, giving and seeking regular feedback and discussing problems as they arise, there’s a good chance the employee will realise the role is not for them, thank you for the opportunity, and leave on good terms.

Posted: 02/10/2015


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