How would you climb a 4000 ft high mountain? When you ask this question to a person who does this on a regular basis, he would say that it is easy. I enjoy hiking, but I have never climbed a mountain, so I was surprised when I hiked my first 4000 footer a few weeks ago, that it was that easy. One step at the time!
Improving the performance of an employee is similar to climbing a mountain. If you take the right 4 steps, you will build a top performer.
1. Define the 3 most important goals
When we are dealing with employees that are underperforming, we are often times faced with this seemingly unclimbable mountain. It seems that this person is doing everything wrong. Take a step back and think about a maximum of 3 areas of improvement that are most important to you. Then define for each, smart goals that somebody can achieve in a reasonable amount of time (one week, two week). They also need to be relevant to the position and the company goals, as well as measurable (I want you to be friendlier is vague, I want you to smile to every visitor is measurable).
2. Schedule time
Taking time to talk to an employee is extremely important to gain their attention. Just walking in their office to talk about their performance, while you have to leave in 5 minutes is less effective than to schedule time in your calendar and have your full attention to meet with the employee. Make sure that the employee has time to meet with you.
3. Coach & Manage
As a manager you need to persuade the message clearly to the employee. These three goals needs to be improved. You need the engagement of the employee to be able to get the employee to the level you believe is acceptable. When employees feel that there is a conversation, instead of a monologue, they might be able to explain to you why they are not able to achieve those goals, or what kind of support they need to be successful. Finding the balance between coaching and managing can be difficult.
4. Follow up
What measured get’s done. We all know that. It is very effective to schedule a meeting with your employee within one week to discuss the progress.
When you see that the employee did not improve. Discuss the reason why it has not improved. Listen to what the employee has to say. You as the manager must determine if this an employee that you did not provide the right tools, or is this an employee that does not want to be helped? People that don’t want to be helped, might not worth your time and money. But people who are willing to be helped, will show improvements. Look for the difference.
When you see the improvements, schedule a new meeting and try to see if you can meet once every other week. Before you know it, you will see that you can transition out of the improvement cycle and have climbed this seemingly unclimbable mountain!