When we encounter colleagues that are not living up to their end of the bargain or are breaking commitments, it is the reaction of many to throw the odd barb in their direction or even slate them behind their back.
It’s funny that we often overreact in these situations and declare that this individual must be completely selfish, bloody thoughtless, totally incompetent or all of the above.
This reaction, however, is not one that demonstrates strong or mature leadership. As a leader, we must spend the time to find out what is going on. No one comes to work wanting to fail or to be average, so it’s up to us to find out the truth behind what is happening.
Enquiring as soon as possible, why they have dropped the ball, will help in our understanding and remove blame and frustration at source. If we don’t have this knowledge, it will be impossible to support and coach the individual to overcome the challenges they face and ultimately become a better employee. Furthermore, if we choose to ignore or not react immediately we are just inflaming the situation and paving the way for others to join in the un-resourceful conversation.
In these situations, a further complexity that requires consideration, is how others may be influencing this individual. It needs to be recognised that underperformance may be due to the influence or actions of others and social forces.
In a team environment, where there are differing standards, it is tempting for group members to gravitate to the lowest level. Reactions such as, “I’m not pulling my weight, if they’re not” or “why should I make the effort, if they are getting away with it?” can be commonplace. It is your job as a leader to understand these influences and take action, making each member fully accountable for their own performance. Furthermore, the calling out of poor behaviour and results will add consequence which will then allow standards to be reset.
The discipline to consistently enquire is a trait of great leadership as it allows a calmer and more forthright approach that will benefit the individual in question and the team as a whole. The best leaders drive accountability and, in particular, do not shy away from tough situations. With experience, leaders will work through these situations, supporting team members to find solutions and become higher performers. Creating this environment will also remove the ‘blame’ and ‘cover your arse’ mentality which is often seen when people are under pressure.
So remember, as a leader, do not jump to a conclusion immediately. The first thought needs to be one of enquiry not of how much of a roasting you’re going to give that individual.