As a leader, you’ve ideally built a relationship with each of your team members. You’ve likely swapped stories about your families, collaborated on successful work projects, and built the emotional capital necessary to have a successful team.
However, being a leader means that sometimes you are confronted with the challenge of how to best handle delicate situations, such as addressing a performance issue among your team.
Even great teams, for one reason or another, don’t perform to the expected standard. You may try to avoid the situation and hope it goes away on its own. The reality, though, is that the problem does exist, and the longer it goes on without being talked about, the worse it will get.
On a company level, the performance of each individual team impacts the organization’s overall production and revenue goals. As a leader, you are accountable for your team’s performance, and it’s critical to take direct action to prevent even bigger problems down the road.
Below are four action steps to help your team move past their performance issue and achieve success.
Step #1: Make sure the right people are in the room.
Depending on the issue at hand, you’ll need to determine who is accountable for the outcome and make sure the right people have been invited to the table.
Don’t, for example, host a team meeting if your issue is about one individual team member. Most importantly, you don’t want to put this person on the spot in front of others, and likewise, you shouldn’t use team meetings to make sweeping statements about the team if it is actually an individual issue. Honor your team’s time by addressing issues that are relevant to the team as a whole and save individual conversations for later.
Step #2: Present the issue to your team.
When you gather your team together and acknowledge openly that there is an issue, it’s like flipping on a light switch in a dark room. By providing feedback and creating awareness, you’re letting your team in on important information that they need to know in order to make improvements and course correct.
It’s equally important as a leader to avoid making assumptions about the root cause of the issue or jumping to conclusions about what should be done in order to resolve it. Instead, keep it high level—for example, inform them that the team is not meeting their monthly quota, or bring up the fact that a deadline was missed on an important team project.
Step #3: Open up the dialogue.
After you call out the issue, allow each employee’s perspectives to be heard.Your goal is to facilitate this conversation by listening and helping your team solve the current challenges.
In the FIERCE TEAM PROGRAM, we teach how to conduct a Beach Ball meeting. We call it a Beach Ball meeting because we view each employee on a team as a stripe of color, where each stripe represents a different perspective.
This type of meeting allows you, the leader, to create a setting where you come to the table with your team and address an issue collaboratively. This is a great way to tackle a subject like team performance, because it removes the punitive feeling that is associated with this topic and encourages the team to come to a solution together.
Enter this conversation with curiosity, and make sure all perspectives are heard. Be open to discovering completely new and valuable information, including new awareness about other issues that you didn’t even know existed. Don’t immediately dismiss an excuse or complaint—it likely contains a nugget of truth that can help better inform a solution.
To move things in a positive direction and keep the conversation on track, ask:
Given everything we’ve discussed, what can we do to achieve our team’s goals? What will help us move forward?
Step #4: Create an action plan.
The final step is to create an action plan. Ask your team:
Knowing what you know now, what is everyone committing to do over the next week, month, and year?
Get specific! Assign responsibilities and schedule a time for everyone to reconnect on progress.
If one meeting isn’t enough to tackle the issue and you don’t have time to get to this critical step, schedule the next meeting right then so it doesn’t get placed on the back burner. It’s also possible that some of your team members might have individual issues that don’t apply to the team as a whole. Address their concerns by setting up a time to meet with them one-on-one and create specific next steps for them.
Addressing an issue like performance is a hard, yet necessary, component of leadership. In the end, addressing an issue in an open and honest manner strengthens the relationship and sets your team, as well as your company, up for the greatest amount of success.
Want to learn more about addressing performance issues with individuals and teams? View our pre-recorded webinar Talk With Me: 5 Conversations to Drive Performance.
Last updated on September 21, 2018; Originally published July 11, 2012