Donna's blog on coaching, leadership, and life

Allowing poor performance will support poor performance.

I’m reminded regularly how primary a leader’s/manager’s role is in establishing expectations and generating accountability as they relate to staff performance—based on those expectations being clearly defined, communicated, and upheld.

I often witness an interesting dynamic when less than stellar or problem performance is accepted in a particular area because the individual provides a high value in another. This tends to happen in sales and/or technical environments where an individual’s ability to bring in revenue or provide exceptional technical expertise may outweigh their shortcomings in other areas. It happens every day and frankly—although it’s somewhat dysfunctional—it’s somewhat understandable.

Or, perhaps less than desired performance is accepted simply because of the discomfort and/or major inconvenience that a candid conversation might generate.

The key word here is “accepted”. Often leaders/managers are not aware that allowing a behavior, is in many ways supporting the behavior. And in this unspoken support lies the standard and the permission to any other employees who might be interested in behaving similarly.

One thing that may be helpful to remember—It’s never too late to RE-establish expectations and/or requirements of a job. Decide what you will and won’t accept and clearly document the responsibilities of the role. Meet with the individual or team and let them know that based on business/organizational/customer needs, you’re re-establishing the requirements of the job. Offer them a document clarifying the “new” role and let them know that they are your very first choice for fulfilling and being successful in that role. Be prepared to offer resources and coaching to best support that success where they feel they will need the support.

Ask them to review the document carefully so that they can choose or re-choose their commitment to it. If you want to give them some time to review it or to think about it offline, be sure to schedule a follow up meeting so that the individual realizes the importance of the follow-up discussion.

Of course in order for the above strategy to really work, you must be prepared to state or implement consequences if the new role is not fulfilled to expectation. And there lies the rub.

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