Diagnosing Poor Performance

If you believe an employee is not making enough of an effort, you’ll likely to put pressure on him or her to perform.  But if the real issue is ability, then increased pressure may only make the problem worse.

  • Low ability may be associated with the following:
  • Over-difficult tasks
  • Low individual aptitude, skill and knowledge
  • Evidence of strong effort, despite poor performance
  • Lack of improvement over time.

People with low ability may have been poorly matched with jobs in the first place. They may be been promoted to a position that’s too demanding for them.  Or maybe they no longer have the support that previously helped them to perform well.

There are five ways to overcome performance problems associated with a lack of ability.

  1. Resupply: Focus on the resources provided to do the job. Do employees have what they need to perform well and meet expectations?
  2. Retrain: Provide additional training to team members. Explore with them whether they have the actual skills required to do what’s expected. Given the pace of change of technology, it’s easy for people’s skills to become outdated.
  3. Refit:  When these two measures aren’t sufficient, consider refitting the job to the person.  Are there parts of the job that can be reassigned?
  4. Reassign: When revising or refitting the job doesn’t turn the situation around, look at reassigning the poor performer. Typical job reassignments may decrease the demands of the role .
  5. Release:  As a final option for lack of ability, you may need to let the employee go. Sometimes there are no opportunities for reassignment and refitting isn’t appropriate for the organization.

Improving Motivation

Sometimes poor performance has its roots in low motivation.  When this is the case, you need to work closely with the employee to create a motivating environment in which to work.  There are three key interventions that may improve people’s motivation.

  1. Performance Goals. Goal setting is a well-recognized aspect of performance improvement. Employees must understand what’s expected of them and agree on what they need to improve.
  2. Performance Assistance. Once you’ve set performance goals, help your team member succeed by providing the necessary training, securing the resources needed and encouraging cooperation and assistance from coworkers.You may consider the GROW Model as a way of coaching employees to improve their performance.
  3. Performance Feedback.  People need feedback on their efforts. They need to know where they stand in terms of current performance and long-terms expectations.  When providing feedback, keep in mind the importance of timeliness, openness and honesty, and personalized rewards.

Development Levels
Blanchard’s Situational Leadership® II Model uses the terms “competence” (ability, knowledge, and skill) and “commitment” (confidence and motivation) to describe different levels of development.

Situational Leadership

Situational Leadership II – Ken Blanchard

The Situational Leadership® II Model tends to view development as an evolutionary progression meaning that when individuals approach a new task for the first time, they start out with little or no knowledge, ability or skills, but with high enthusiasm, motivation, and commitment. Blanchard views development as a process as the individual moves from developing to developed.  In this viewpoint it is still incumbent upon the leader to diagnose development level and then use the appropriate leadership style.

In the Blanchard SLII Model, the belief is that an individual comes to a new task or role with low competence (knowledge and transferable skills) but high commitment. As the individual gains experience and is appropriately supported and directed by their leader they reach Development Level 2 and gain some competence, but their commitment drops because the task may be more complex than the individual had originally perceived when they began the task. With the direction and support of their leader, the individual moves to Development Level 3 where competence can still be variable—fluctuating between moderate to high knowledge, ability and transferable skills and variable commitment as they continue to gain mastery of the task or role. Finally, the individual moves to Development Level 4 where competence and commitment are high.

This leadership model states that the degree of direction and support shifts with the individual’s competency and motivation.

To learn more about Ken Blanchard’s Situational Leadership model, view his web site at Situational Leadership – Ken Blanchard.com

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