Monday, 2 September 2019

4 questions to ask an underperforming employee during a one-on-one meeting by Claire Lew

When an employee is struggling, here’s what the best managers do.

Claire Lew

Someone’s slipping. You see it. You feel it. You’re not on the same page. You desperately want to pull the person up, but you’re not sure exactly how. Do you encourage them? Switch them off the project? Change how you’re leading them?
You’re now facing one of the toughest tasks as a leader: How do you manage underperformance at work? And more specifically, how do you sit down and talk about their underperformance with them, during a one-on-one meeting with her or him?
It’s tempting to look outward first. To blame the person herself or extenuating circumstances. “They don’t pay attention to detail.” Or, “The client is being unreasonable with them.”
While those may very well be the case, you should also turn inward. As leaders, when an employee is underperforming, we must self-reflect. What are you doing that is stopping this person from doing their best work?
The hard part about managing an underperforming employee is choosing to look both inward and outward for the sources of underperformance at work: What are you doing to hold an underperforming employee back? And what is the underperforming employee doing to hold herself back?
Oftentimes, we think we know the answer to those questions. We have hunches about what’s causing the underperformance: “It’s their perfectionist tendency getting in the way, obviously…” or “It’s my lack of context I shared about the project, clearly…”
So, we just create a performance improvement plan based on those hunches, and move forward.
That path is instinctual — but that path is flawed. Assuming what’s wrong doesn’t help you get any closer to finding out what actually is wrong. While your hunches may end up being spot-on, in my experience, I discover the truth of what’s really holding an employee back when I ask, not when I assume. Coaching a struggling employee to success begins with asking the right questions, not simply arriving with the supposed answers.
Given this, when you sit down in a one-on-one with an underperforming employee, what should you ask? What questions will help you look both inward and outward to get to the underlying source of underperformance?
Here are 14 questions to try. They are by no means the only questions you ask during a one-on-one (here are other ones to consider). But, they provide a good starting place to delve into how to better manage an underperforming employee.

Ask these questions to look inward.

You’re trying to figure out: “How have I been letting this person down? How have I been getting in the way?”
  • Is it clear what needs to get done? How can I make the goals or expectations clearer?
  • Is the level of quality that’s required for this work clear? What examples or details can I provide to clarify the level of quality that’s needed?
  • Am I being respectful of the amount of time you have to accomplish something? Can I be doing a better job of protecting your time?
  • Do you feel you’re being set up to fail in any way? Are my expectations realistic? What am I asking that we should adjust so it’s more reasonable?
  • Do you have the tools and resources to do your job well?
  • Have I given you enough context about why this work is important, who the work is for, or any other information that is crucial to do your job well?
  • What’s irked you or rubbed you the wrong way about my management style? Does my tone come off the wrong way? Do I follow-up too frequently with you, not giving you space to breathe?

Ask these questions to look outward.

You’re trying to figure out: “What on the employee’s end is limiting them? What choices or capabilities of their own are keeping them from the results you want to see?”
  • How have you been feeling about your own performance lately? Where do you see opportunities to improve, if any?
  • What are you most enjoying about the work you’re doing? What part of the work is inspiring, motivating, and energizing, if any?
  • What part of the work do you feel stuck? What have you been trying the “crack the nut” on, but it feels like you’re banging your head?
  • What part of the work is “meh”? What tasks have you feeling bored or ambivalent about?
  • When’s the last time you got to talk to or connect with a customer who benefited from the work you did? Would you like more opportunities to do that, and should make that happen?
  • Do you feel you’re playing to your strengths in your role? Where do you feel like there is a steep learning curve for you?
  • Would you say you’re feeling optimistic, pessimistic or somewhere in the middle about the company’s future?
You’ll notice that none of these questions ask, “What do you think you’re doing wrong?” or “What do you think I’m doing wrong?” The point of these questions is not to end up in an accusatory place, either way. Your goal is to reach a place of better understanding.
By approaching the conversation with an underperforming employee with questions to ask, rather than answers or directives to insert, you create space for that employee to want to do something different. To actually change and improve.
That change, that improvement, is the goal, after all.

Friday, 15 February 2019

8 Things Successful People Never Waste Time Doing by Cynthia Bazin

As a mentor, people often come to me when they are overwhelmed, stressed and feeling like they’re not accomplishing their goals, the things they most want to do in life. They feel stuck. They are at a point which they don’t know what to do.

So one of the first things do first is identify their time-wasters, the things that are getting in the way of them being successful, keeping them from moving forward, toward what they want to accomplish.

I think we all, from time to time, get ourselves involved in activities that do not contribute to our greatest success or happiness. I definitely did at one time, but I made the necessary changes once I became an entrepreneur and learned how valuable each second of the day was—that there really wasn’t any time to waste on activities that didn’t grow me or my business.
We’re all looking to be successful in life, but sometimes we are wasting our time doing things that are holding us back from reaching our full potential. And, often, we don’t recognize those things until someone points them out.
It’s important to analyze how we spend our days, hour by hour, and regularly look for ways to work smarter, ways to eliminate time-wasters. So, to get started, here are eight things that productive, successful people never waste their time doing (and you shouldn’t either):

1. Productive, successful people don’t get sucked into social media.

Being on social media—checking notifications Facebook, scrolling through pictures on Instagram, reading quick updates on Twitter, whatever—it’s part of everyday life. But if you don’t control how much time you spend on it, the hours will fly by and you won’t have accomplished anything on your to-do list.
So either put a time limit on it—set an alarm for when you need to minimize it, close the app, do something else—or only get on after completing necessary work projects. Use social media as a reward.

2. Productive, successful people don’t go through the day without a plan.

Successful people have a purpose, a laser-focused plan of things they want to achieve on a particular day. I believe in writing things down—but only the top two or three priorities I need to accomplish that day, not a long list of things.
Write down your top priorities and break down those large tasks into more reasonable steps and you’ll see yourself wanting to get them done and crossed off the list.

3. Productive, successful people don’t do emotionally draining activities.

If you want to step into a truly successful life, you have to focus on things that positively fuel your life. Productive people don’t waste their time on things that emotionally drain them.
Before committing to activities on your schedule, be sure the activity will positively add to your life. If you believe it won’t, then think about saying no to it. Also, don’t feel obligated to give an answer right at the time you’re being asked to do something. Think before you say yes and know that it’s OK to say no to requests for your time.

4. Productive, successful people don’t worry about things they can’t control.

Successful people realize that worrying gets you absolutely nowhere in life, especially if you can’t do anything about a situation.
So turn your thoughts to action-based activities. Focus on things you can get done.

5. Productive, successful people don’t hang out with negative people.

It’s said that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. So if you want to be your best, you have to surround yourself with the best people.
Be sure to eliminate negative, toxic energy around you. If you want to soar in life, you need to unload what is weighing you down.

6. Productive, successful people don’t dwell on past mistakes.

Successful people make mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. The key to being successful in life is not making the same mistake twice, learning and growing from mistakes, and becoming a better person because of them.
So when you make a mistake, get into a mindset that the mistake is done with and you can’t go back to the past. Focus on what you learned and design a strategy to positively move forward from it.

7. Productive, successful people don’t focus on what other people are doing.

It’s great to be inspired by what other successful people are doing, but when you’re constantly comparing yourself to the next person and it’s bringing you down, it’s time to shift your mindset.
Be inspired by others, but focus your mindset to only compete with the most important person: yourself.

8. Productive, successful people don’t put themselves last in priority.

We all go through times that we don’t get enough sleep or exercise because we need to work on a big project. But for long-term success and happiness, you must put yourself first on the priority list.
Some great ways to do this is to kick start your day by doing something you love to do—maybe it’s completing a great workout, meditating, journaling or reading your favorite book. Do what works for you. Because when you start off your day doing something you love and that is good for you, you’ll feel happy, focused and strong the rest of the day.
Are there things on this list that have been time-wasters for you? Eliminate them so you can step into your best life.