Poor Performers Probably Don’t Know
Addressing performance issues is always tough. Many managers are uncomfortable discussing poor performance issues with poor performers.
There are a number of factors that could make these conversations even more difficult–for both the manager and poor performer. Here some things that make these conversations very difficult:
First, poorly defined performance expectations. I’m amazed had how many organizations don’t put in place well defined performance plans. A quota isn’t a performance plan! It’s an element of a performance plan, but a good performance plan clearly defines performance expectations, development expectations and a number of other things. It should include quantitative and qualitative objectives. Ideally, the performance plan is developed collaboratively between the sales person and manager. Ideally, we periodically through the year, we review how the person is doing against those criteria. Performance plans can be very powerful in defining the behaviors we expect, creating development and growth plans, and in helping the person understand overall expectations.
But too often, these aren’t in place. The sales person has no idea how their performance will be evaluated and no idea whether they are performing well or not.
Overlay this with no or poor coaching from management. As managers, our job is to maximize the performance of every person on our team. The highest leverage tool we have to do this is coaching our people, helping them understand their current performance, helping them discover the problems with that performance, and helping them improve. But coaching poor performers is tough. It’s more fun and engaging to work with our top performers. With poor performers, it’s a challenge, the conversations are sometimes difficult, the progress is slower than we would like. Sometimes, we struggle in trying to identify how to help them improve.
And that’s if we are attempting to coach at all—-the problem is, too often, poor performers just don’t get any or the right kind of coaching.
The challenge doesn’t stop there.
There is a recent study mentioned in the HBR blog that says “poor performers often don’t recognize they are poor performers, ……. often vastly overestimating their performance.” They cite a study where people were asked to respond to a set of questions, then asked, “How many do you think you got right?” The lowest scorers had an average response of 7 out of 10, when in reality they got 0 right.
It kind of makes sense. If people don’t know what good performance is, if they don’t understand performance expectations, they are very likely to have a mistaken impression of their own impression. Add to that the fact that it’s human nature for most of us to overestimate our own performances; the results of this study are very understandable.
So in addition to their poor performance, poor performers have a lot that’s outside their abilities going against them. The bottom line, they just may not realize they are poor performers!
So what do we do? Many might respond, “Why bother!” Others might say, “Get rid of them!”
I don’t think that’s the right answer. We, as leaders, have put them in their jobs. It’s our obligation as leaders to clearly define performance expectations, making sure they understand them. It’s our job to provide clear and direct feedback on their performance, coupled with coaching on how to improve their performance. We can get poor performers to understand their performance gaps. We can help them improve performance through setting clear objectives and coaching. Some will respond and improve, some may not and we may have to take other actions.
But we can’t ignore them and we can’t expect them, or anyone for that matter, to understand how they are performing without clear performance objectives and feedback.
Do your poor performers understand your expectations?
Do they understand how they are falling short?
Do they understand, specifically, what they need to do to improve their performance? (As well as the consequences of not improving their performance.)
Are you providing effective coaching and ongoing feedback to help them improve?
Do you have an accurate view of your own performance?
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