Anthony & I get into a “meaty” conversation on his fantastic human resources podcast (E1B2 Podcast -Employee 1st Business 2nd) on the challenges w/ employee engagement, employee experience, culture building, teamwork, new employee onboarding, & other HR areas.
“In today’s episode, we cover the following topics ( Why teamwork is the most important company asset and least understood. We also discuss why and the cost/impact strategies and tools to build it. We also conduct a deep dive into Why 99% of onboarding is broken and what to do about it; what matters the most as it pertains to onboarding new employees? Finally what brands need to care about the most from a psychological perspective during the onboarding process!)”
An underperforming employee can drag the entire team down and create unnecessary drama and tension. It could be things such as missing deadlines, not thinking strategically, poor communication, missing goals, or many other things. The “knee jerk” reaction for many managers, after most likely several intense conversations and a lot of frustration, is training or termination.
That might still be the end result, but there is a better three-step process to go through that I outline below.
Here’s an important data point to keep in mind when you are thinking about this:A manager’s ability to accurately and quickly diagnose their employees’ performance challenges and then provide the right prescriptive solutions is critical to building high-performing teams and companies.
If a manager can’t, it not only causes frustration between the manager and employee, it cascades through the entire team and other teams they interact with.
Managers often struggle to understand the root causes when employees struggle. How? They often assume that the “surface level” issue is the problem when it actually runs much deeper. Often times there is/are issue(s) beyond knowledge, skill, and competency that play a primary or secondary role.
If you don’t address the entirety of the challenge, it often comes back again in a different scenario. That’s both costly and huge time waste.
The first place to start is root cause analysis (i.e. getting to the “roots” of what’s causing the issue and why they can’t move past it). These are self-reflective questions the manager can run through, then discuss with the employee and finally implement.
Before you go through root cause analysis it’s worthwhile to run through a quick exercise: There are three key questions that help determine if someone can change, overcome an obstacle/difficulty and learnskills/knowledge to get to the next level in their career.
Are they willing? (You can’t do much with someone who isn’t.)
Are they motivated and do they care? (If they are disconnected, and disengaged, it’s really, really hard to help someone).
Are they coachable? (Change requires new behaviors, thinking, and actions. If they aren’t open to new ideas and taking new “leaps of faith” to trying new things, you can’t move them forward).
Unless you are very certain the answer is “no” for all three, keep reading. There is hope and a possibility for improvement. And remember, every great employee at one point in their career will get really stuck.
Here’s the three-step employee performance root cause analysis process
Step 1: Diagnose the Problem
Answer the following questions…
What are they required to do?
Who do they have to work with?
When and where do their underperformance issues appear?
What’s the impact of the underperformance?
What does great, average and poor performance look like? (and do they know what it looks like?)
What has been done in the past to address it?
Step 2: Do Root Cause Analysis (see the template/tool kit below)
There is a useful performance issue diagnostic tool that can help a manager get at the potential root causes for the employee’s underperformance. Check it out. It goes through a template and check-list on their motivation, knowledge, skill, and environment.
Here is part of it so you can see it before you download it (sorry for the small size):
There are a few key questions that I would add to the above list:
Do they understand how they will be evaluated?
How are they being measured? Tasks, activities and/or results?
Are they regularly informed about the feedback? Is it soon and often enough? Is it specific and accurate? Is it understandable and clear to them? Is it tied to things under their control?
Are there incentives for them do well? Do they know what they are? Are they motivating for them?
Step 3: Prescribe the Right Solution
Sometimes it’s not just the employee that needs help, it’s the manager too.
If it’s knowledge/skills – provide education, training, and coaching
If it’s standards/measures – realign expectations and provide “crystal clarity” on measurements
If it’s lack of feedback – the manager needs to get leadership and management coaching
If it’s environmental – provide the additional resources, tools, assistance and anything else they need.
If it’s ability – rehire if the skills, knowledge, and experience gap is too big.
Root cause analysis is very helpful when looking at employee performance challenges. It also can be very useful for high-performing employees to get them even more engaged and motivated.
Elon Musk sent out an internal email to Tesla employees on what great communication looks like and the chain of communication. I find this a fascinating read and worth discussing. It’s definitely controversial and can be challenging to pull off. Here is his email:
“There are two schools of thought about how information should flow. By far the most common way is chain of command, which means that you always flow communication through your manager. The problem with this approach is that, while it enhances the power of the manager, it fails to serve the company.
Instead of a problem getting solved quickly, where a person in one dept talks to a person in another dept and makes the right thing happen, people are forced to talk to their manager who talks to their manager who talks to the manager in the other dept who talks to someone on his team. Then the info has to flow back the other way again. This is incredibly dumb. Any manager who allows this to happen, let alone encourages it, will soon find themselves working at another company. No kidding.
Anyone at Tesla can and should email/talk to anyone else according to what they think is the fastest way to solve a problem for the benefit of the whole company. You can talk to your manager’s manager without his permission, you can talk directly to a VP in another dept, you can talk to me, you can talk to anyone without anyone else’s permission. Moreover, you should consider yourself obligated to do so until the right thing happens. The point here is not random chitchat, but rather ensuring that we execute ultra-fast and well.”
What’s the main takeaway for me: Managers shouldn’t be bottlenecks, silos and/or “information-stoppers.” Anyone should feel safe, able and comfortable reaching out to anyone else company-wide. It’s completely inefficient to always have to run something through a chain of command instead of problem-solving it yourself.
That being said…
Know your company culture (and values) and what’s acceptable (and what’s not)
Weigh the consequences of going around people
Managers can be very helpful by being a sounding board, “war-gaming” a strategy/plan, being your advocate and much more
Individuals should also go back and loop-in people because excluding them entirely causes its own set of issues
An individual’s skill level on emotional intelligence, communication, teamwork, empathy, feedback and more will go a VERY long way to help navigate what Elon Musk mentions
I came across a dozen or so exceptional managers that used different versions of “user manuals” or “how-to-work-with-me-manuals.” They told me they were game-changers for productivity, performance, communication, and teamwork. They minimized and eliminated misunderstandings, biases and much more. What are they? Read on and learn!
“Learning how best to work with others is a huge challenge that often derails and stalls organizations. Over many years I’ve seen tremendously talented and productive teams struggle because of subtle misunderstandings, miscommunications and unspoken conflicts. Most business failures stem from these issues.
Leaders often talk about the importance of teamwork, but they rarely say exactly how to do it.
Here’s one game-changing step your organization and/or team can take: implementing a “How to Work With Me” manual and process. It’s a detailed instruction road map on individual preferences for areas such as communication, trust and pet peeves. It sets clear expectations on how to interact without trying to guess or infer what the other person means. It allows people to be authentic without being misunderstood.
It also instantly increases trust and team chemistry. You’ll see direct bottom-line benefits such as increased performance and fewer conflicts and miscommunications.
No matter how well we think we read people, everyone could use some help. None of us are perfect at it. But we can be much, much better.
We all have different personalities, communication styles, expectations and needs. We’ve been shaped by different experiences and histories. That creates challenging dynamics when you bring together leaders, managers and employees and expect them to accomplish difficult goals.
Organizations throw people together in teams and expect them to “magically” figure out each other’s personalities, preferences and hot buttons through guesswork, mind reading and trial-and-error. It would be similar to having to assemble IKEA’s most complicated piece of furniture without the instructions.
People often end up trying to analyze and predict what others like, hate, need and want, instead of asking them directly. This results in a rollercoaster ride of confusion, miscommunication, misunderstandings, unmet expectations, anxiety, fear and disappointment.
Despite all our best intentions, this process and environment is primed for broken trust, poor relationships and underperforming teams.
“This book is one of the best-kept secrets I’ve come across in a REALLY long time! There is are so many tips for conversations and networking skills in today’s society. If you can master what Jason talks about in this book, you’ll definitely build long-term wealth! Many other reviewers have compared this to “How to Win Friends & Influence People” and I cannot agree more. Buy two copies and give one to someone in your network.”
It’s always great to read a review from someone you don’t know about the positive impact Social Wealth had on them. I’ve been fortunate to have more than 125+ five-star reviews on the book. If you are looking to build deeper, more meaningful business relationships (either in your company or through business networking), you may want to consider checking it out. It works for introverts and shy people just as well as extroverts.