Leaders respect and value the differences in others. In times of uncertainty, you accept that your available human resources are your only sustainable competitive advantage. When the people you lead don’t perform at acceptable levels, you must sometimes exert your influence. Sometimes you don’t have authority to make them do what you think they should do. In those situations, you must often accept whatever they give you or try to find ways to influence or inspire them to want to do what you believe they should do. There are five primary reasons people underperform. Understanding the reasons behind nonperformance is the first step to using your abilities to influence others effectively and without resorting to manipulation.
I don’t know what to do…
Solution: Educate — If people don’t know what to do, you can get them what they need to get past this obstacle. Show people what they need to do by building a strong foundation for their performance during new employee orientation and the on-boarding process or later during education and development opportunities. Unless people clearly understand what they need to do, they will make mistakes or allocate their time to the tasks inappropriately.
I don’t know how to do it..
Solution: Train — When they don’t know how, you can get them the practice and skills they need to begin to move forward. Training is the answer. Take people through the step-by-step process of performing tasks and how the correct execution of those steps creates success for them and the organization.
I don’t believe I can…
Solution: Coach — This area reflects your confidence in their ability to perform. It is important to show them that the job can be done and that they can do it. Coaching is not just a matter of cheering your employees on, but of helping them see why they have been selected to perform the task or why they have been appointed to the team. Instill in them a belief in themselves and the confidence to use past successes as a stepping stone to future opportunities.
I don’t know why…
Solution: Vision — When other people don’t see the reason behind your directions, you need to get their support to move forward. This is often a trust issue. A senior leader’s vision for the organization is a good start, but employees also need to know how they fit into that vision and why their organizational processes are critical to accomplishing the vision.
I don’t want to…
Solution: Motivate — This is the most challenging reason people underperform—when people know what to do and how to do it, but they are not motivated enough to do it or they feel they have a better way. Sometimes people even try to sabotage the process to slow down changes. In this situation, you must use your influence to get results. Motivation is the key. If people know what to do, how to do it, believe they can do it, and know why they should do it, non-performance must be due to some other barrier that may not be immediately discernable. Look at how the organization is inspiring its employees. Are they being kept busy without knowing how their activities relate to the organization’s mission or vision? Inspired employees have the internal desire to achieve the vision.
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