Career coach: under-performance

Q I am a learning and development practitioner for a large organisation with an extensive network of high-street outlets that is split into seven regions across the UK. Six have beaten their sales targets for each of the past three years by impressive margins. The seventh region constantly fails to meet its targets and the regional director appears to be blasé and accepting of the under-performance of his people, many of whom have worked with him for his entire 10 years with the business. What approach can we take to change this region’s culture of accepting under-performance?

Career coach: Carole Gaskell, founder and chief executive, Full Potential Group

A Research shows that up to 72% of how employees perceive their culture can be traced to the actions of their leaders. They create the conditions that determine people’s ability to work well.

Focus your attention on the regional director and other leaders connected with the region. Work with them to clarify the underlying source of the under-performance. Identify the role they are playing, and get them to take genuine ownership (emotional as well as intellectual) of the situation. Actively engaging them in creating and sustaining a high-performance culture moving forward, will be key to success.

Use the CIGAR structure to approach difficult conversations and address behaviour, beliefs and cultural mindsets.

  • Context and current reality: Ask your regional director to clarify the context, and then explore what is going on regarding the situation being discussed. Ask how people currently manage performance issues. What are they doing well? What are they struggling with? What is the failure of addressing poor performance really costing them?

  • Ideal: Agree an ideal outcome. Ask him/her what excellent performance management would be like in their region. What does high performance mean? How will people know when they are performing well and dealing with under-performance really effectively? What will the regional director and the senior players in the region be role-modelling? What difference will this make to them, to employees, to the business, to customers?

  • Gaps: Challenge the regional director to define what is causing this culture of under-performance. What beliefs and behaviours make people accept poor performance? Emotional connection is critical.

  • Action and accountability: What needs to happen next and who will be held responsible?

  • Review: It is important to monitor and evaluate progress, and reinforce to ensure sustainability. Measure and review people’s progress in addressing under-performance while reinforcing high-performance behaviours through recognition and reward systems to dramatically increase your success.

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