A good philosophy from Business Improvement is the idea that a good manager is “nose in, hands out”.
In practice this means that you need to know exactly what is going on with your direct reports, you should be across their KPIs and know how they are travelling towards their targets. That’s the nose in part. Remember, you have created a good PD (see Part I) so there is clarity about this. BUT, you are hands out, it’s their job, not yours, so keep out of the doing, stay involved and supporting, but let them do their job.
A manager will often chastise a report for not meeting a target. A leader starts with the assumption that they have made a good hire so they will want to know why there is a performance gap. The conversation goes along the lines, “You seem to be doing well with KPI’s A, B and C. You are lagging a little with KPI-D though. Is there anything I can do to help?”
You see, if you have made a good hire there are two good reasons why someone has missed a target. 1) They haven’t been trained properly or 2) The situation has changed, and that they are under resourced. If either of these reasons is behind the under performance it is up to you to fix it.
Another potential reason that isn’t so acceptable is that they haven’t been focused. This conversation lets your report know that you know that they are under-performing, that you are there to assist if they need help, and that communication channels are open.
If options 1 and 2 are covered, and they don’t respond appropriately to the gap, then possibly you need to go with option 3 which is recognising that they aren’t up to the job. This isn’t a realisation you arrive at overnight, but time will tell. By now you have supported them throughout and both of you know what the eventual outcome will be.
Option 3 also means that you didn’t make a good hire after all, but you have tried everything to correct the problem. As a good leader, when faced with underperformance you must decide whether you are dealing with situation 1, 2 or 3 and then fix the problem. The sooner you do it, the happier everyone will be.
This approach creates clarity about expectations, a culture of open communication between leaders and their reports while providing the support and space people need to work autonomously which is one of the best motivators going.
Pragmatico provides guidance and coaching to implement this approach in practice, starting from the CEO and cascading through the organisation from the top, no matter how big or small.
Part III in this series, and the final episode, examines why this approach may still not work, so stay tuned.