Got Mediocre Employees? Read This. - May 2, 2017

Do you recognize this person at your office? He shows up every day, always about 15 minutes late—just enough to be late but not late enough to address it. If you ask him to perform a task, he'll do exactly what you ask—no more and no less. He does not collaborate. If he's missing information to do his task, he expects you to fill in the blanks. He's not going to take initiative to get the answers on his own. At some point, you feel like you're working for this person and not the other way around. You can't let this person go because technically he's doing his job, but he has no interest in being a high-performing employee.

According to four-time New York Times best-selling author Joseph Grenny, the toughest test of a manager is not how to deal with poor performance—it's how to address mediocrity. In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we share his four leadership practices that can lead to performance excellence.

1. Show the consequences of mediocrity. Grenny points out that mediocrity is often the result of someone who is disconnected from the team—so you need to address engagement. Find a way to connect your mediocre performers to an experience of either a job well done or done poorly and the impact of these actions. He gives this example:

A telecommunications IT manager who managed 3,000 software engineers began setting new performance standards by having them manage customer calls for a full shift using the shoddy software they were creating. Those who had these experiences returned and shared stories with their colleagues about the misery they were authoring. In a matter of weeks, the sleepy team had a new alertness about their work —what they were doing and why it mattered. They were no longer about cranking out code; they were about giving reliable tools to the people they served.

2. Use concrete measures as influence. Put meaningful measures in place. Often mediocrity is a result of unclear expectations or non-measurable goals. Be specific about the goals and how to get there, and be sure to review the progress on a regular basis. By setting specific, measurable goals this protects you as a leader as well. You're committed to making these results and so the team is committed to achieving them as well.

3. Establish peer accountability. Grenny explains:

  • On the weakest teams, there is no accountability.
  • On mediocre teams, bosses are the source of accountability.
  • On high-performing teams, peers manage the vast majority of performance problems with one another.

In other words, mediocrity can be the result of strong supervision. Often engagement happens when the responsibility is put on the peers. And often, peer pressure can address issues that supervisors can't. Let the team manage some of this feedback with the average performing employee. Peer accountability can go a long way.

4. Speak up. Do you remind your team that you expect high performance? You need to explain to your team what it feels like to be high performing, and it's not always comfortable. It might mean working later, working harder or taking on responsibilities that you haven't tried before. And the same goes for you as a leader, so set the example. For example, your team is watching how you handle this mediocre performer. If you don't address it, then you are showing your lack of commitment to a high-performing team.

Try these tips to manage mediocrity and achieve better results. Watch for tomorrow's PCT for more insightful ideas to improve your performance and grow your business.

Source: Joseph Grenny is a four-time New York Times bestselling author, keynote speaker and leading social scientist for business performance. His work has been translated into 28 languages, is available in 36 countries and has generated results for 300 of the Fortune 500. He is the cofounder of VitalSmarts, an innovator in corporate training and leadership development.

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