• Nichole Sullivan

How to Lift Poor Performers at Work


The commercial return on investment for using a strength based approach for employee performance is clear. We know that it leads to a 7% ↑ in customer engagement, a 15% ↑ in employee engagement, a 29% ↑ in profit and a 59% ↓ In safety incidents.

But the messy grey, is how do we use a strength based approach with poor performers?

If you have a team member that is not performing at the desired level, take some time to sit and reflect and ask yourself, what are they doing well? If the answer is 'Nothing' you have two options, release them to the job market to find their perfect fit, OR, dig a little deeper. The latter is often the most practical.

As a humanist, I believe that there is inherent value in all employees and that we can cultivate good in all people. As a leader I believe if one of my team members is not performing, I have influenced that result.

Step 1: Systematically review their work and find the gold. Try to catch them out doing something well.

Step 2: Acknowledge it with a conditional attribution. e.g. "You're the kind of team member that always leaves on time, I appreciate good time management!"

"Employees like you are great at raising issues with new policies and procedures in the tool box, you have a keen eye for what works and what doesn't".

We have now highlighted four strengths 1. Good time management 2. The ability to speak up when something isn't working 3.The ability to raise issues in a toolbox 4. The ability to determine what works and what doesn't in policies and procedures.

Ask them to add their own examples of times they have displayed that strength “When else have you used good time management in the past?” "When else have you spoken up about an issue and things have worked out well?" "When else have you identified procedural issues, and influenced change?"

This is critical. It creates a precedent, if they have the strength, if they have used it in the past, if they can identify when they have used it... then.... they CAN use it again. The psychological technique used here is called attribution. You could summarise by saying, “You’re the kind of team member that has good time management, you speak up in meetings and you can identify what works and what doesn't in our policies and procedures”.

Now, for the performance lift. Select an area you need them to work on. It might be for example, safe operation of tools.

Ask them questions like “How might you apply your good time management to your work with tools?” "You've been able to see what's working and what isn't with procedures before, can you walk me through our safe operation of tools procedure?" "Now that we both understand the procedure, what in your opinion about the procedure works and what doesn't?" "How could we use your ability to raise issues to resolve this particular problem?".

This in the very least, starts a conversation which is positive, authentic, solution focused and has potential to influence performance for the better. If you need some inspiration on possible strengths you could unearth in your team, we have the strength cards available in our store.

#strengths #performanceissues #workplace #leadership #influence #attributiontheory #psychology #businessgrit

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