Georgia Murch (pictured below) is an expert in creating feedback cultures and author of Fixing Feedback and her new book, Feedback Flow; The Ultimate Illustrated Guide to Embed Change in 90 Days. In this guest post, Murch says it’s time to extract the best out of your underperforming staff…
When I first started managing a team it was hard. Yes, it was exciting to be able to influence others, help them be better and to start ‘playing’ with the leadership team. But it was hard. The most difficult thing was working out how to motivate the individuals who were not meeting targets and KPIs – especially when they were good-hearted people.
There was this one team member who had a heart of gold. She was full of beans and always trying to please. Yet she was just not hitting her targets and in a sales driven role that was pretty essential. We had weekly catch ups and I spent considerable time training and re- training, going to meetings with her and giving her feedback about what worked and what could be better. Yet six months later it was still a problem.
I needed to have the tough conversation.
We booked a room and started with the awkward small talk. You know the one where you both know there is something that really needs to be said, yet you dance around it! Yep. Clearly, I didn’t know what I was doing. I finally got around to the point that she was being given a formal warning and that if she didn’t improve her numbers, her job was at risk. I told her that it wasn’t what I wanted for her, or the team, but she was not performing so it was necessary.
You know what?! She stepped up. Her activity improved and with it, her sales. It was not long after that she thanked me for the “kick up the arse that needed to happen”.
Another thing also happened, other team members began to mention how much easier she was to work with and how the culture of the team had improved. This was a pivotal moment for me. And the bonus was it also improved my relationship with my colleague, rather than damaging it.
While this is the ideal scenario, this should be no surprise. Having conversations about consequences is what the cool kids are doing. They are being courageous enough to let people know the impact of what they are, or are not doing.
We become so scared to discuss the consequences of inaction. Yet the stakes for our employee or the client are high and there could be some major fallout if something doesn’t change.
Consequences may be:
- Loss of reputation (internal or external).
- Getting over-looked for the next cool project.
- Not being asked for ideas or to collaborate with others.
- A contract not being renewed.
It’s also important that we say what might be likely to happen if the behaviour or action does not change, as this helps them understand the context. It’s often this bit that motivates people to really stand to attention, as it gives them the ‘why’.
Why it needs to change and what will happen if it doesn’t.
Parenting Australia talks about the benefit of consequences in behaviour management. They highlight that we need to consider consequences and action them. For example, if your child’s favourite activity is playing in the sandpit and you banish them there after they have bitten another child when playing – we are actually rewarding the child not punishing them.
So, not only should we action consequences, we also need to consider the right ones. Adults need the same consideration. It’s how we learn.
You are honouring the other person when you have the courage to discuss them.
This all comes with a warning sticker. Consequences are not threats. If they sound like a threat then maybe they are one. How do you know?
- Check your intention. Is it coming from a good place? If not, it will sound like a threat.
- How do the consequences relate to them? What’s the stakes for them – not you.
- Are you prepared to carry out the consequences of inaction? If not, it will sound like a threat.
Anyone can threaten someone. That’s fear driven leadership. That’s command and control. But let’s flip it to explaining consequences and see how the carrot (rather than the stick) inspires people to change their ways.