Have an employee who's struggling? Here's how to help
Leaders of organizations and teams are tasked with keeping their employees on track. High-performers can make your job seem easy – they handle their responsibilities with little oversight or intervention. But the reality is you likely have at least one person on your team who is struggling, and even high-performers experience slumps.
It's common for leaders to relate better to the high-performers because it's much easier to give praise than constructive criticism. However, those who are struggling need guidance and extra effort. So how do you handle it? Leadership guru Lolly Daskal has eight tips to help you coach a struggling employee:
- Identify the issue. Put your emotional intelligence (EQ) to work by being observant and actively listening to identify what is contributing to the employee's troubles. Is there something outside of work that is demanding their attention? Are they not being challenged enough? Are they too in the weeds and overwhelmed? You need to understand what is going on before you develop a solution.
- Communicate clearly. An employee might not realize they are underperforming. That's why it's important to set expectations for roles when they are onboarded, or promoted, and have regular check-ins to review their efforts and progress. Nip problems in the bud as they arise rather than let them fester. Otherwise, it might be too late to fix.
- Focus on facts. Criticisms of our performance can seem like personal attacks. We get defensive when our abilities are questioned. It is important when providing an employee with constructive criticism to be straightforward – while being compassionate – and give detailed examples. Be sure to articulate what the expectations were, how they weren't met, and what continued failure could mean.
- Work on a solution together. A struggling employee needs buy-in to the process to fix the problem. Telling them how it's going to be can alienate them, while discussing options together will instill a sense of responsibility and ownership to improve. If it fails, the employee must accept that they didn't take full advantage of the opportunity.
- Keep expectations clear. It all comes down to communication. As you work to address the problem, set a timeline with certain milestones to hit so you and the employee can objectively determine if progress is being made.
- Praise efforts. Acknowledge the employee's efforts to improve and celebrate little victories along the way. Don't let your dissatisfaction with the way things were taint your current or future perception of the individual if they are committed to turning things around.
- Hire a coach. Especially if this is an employee you believe brings extreme value to your team. As we advance through our careers, we all experience ups and downs in our strengthens. A mentor or coach can provide an outside perspective and safe place for the employee to honestly reflect on their actions and identify ways to improve.
- Follow up. Have regular check-ins – likely at an increased frequency than normal – to stay on top of the solution and evaluate progress.
Don't let underperformers derail your entire organization or team. You made an investment when you hired them, so use these tips from Daskal to address the problems and assess if improvements can – and will – be achieved.
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