Seven Steps to Help Underperformers in Your Group

“When someone in the group is not ‘pulling their weight.’ the desire to avoid conflict leads many practice leaders to waste a lot of time and personal energy trying to rationalize, rather than correct, the problem.” The quote is from First Among Equals: How to Manage a Group of Professionals by Patric J. McKenna and David Maister. If you have been a group leader, you certainly know the dilemma.

The authors of First Among Equals describe a seven step process to deal with an underperformer:

  1. Set up a meeting to discuss the performance issue that concerns you. Be positive, show a degree of personal concern, and make clear that you want your colleague’s ideas on the meeting. Give enough time for the person to consider the performance issue before the meeting.
  2. Reassure the person your confidence in them and your desire to be supportive. The proper role f a group leader is to serve as a coach, catalyst, and cheerleader.
  3. Get agreement that a performance issue exists, and discuss causes. Your task is to ensure that the individual recognizes that there actually is a performance issue. Stay calm in the face of resistance.
  4. Identify and discuss any obstacles to performance beyond the individual’s control. Your goal is to improve performance and, in case individual cannot remove the obstacles alone, your role is to help remove them.
  5. Seek ideas for improvement. Keep your colleague focused on all the areas in which performance improvement may be possible, and ask for ideas how they might improve.
  6. Agree on specific actions to be taken to solve the performance problem. Set out all the ideas you come up with together as an action plan. Make a note on who’s going to take responsibility, the time of implementation, and expected results.
  7. Set a specific follow-up date to review progress. Being consistent is one of the best ways to improve performance. View the meeting as a part of an ongoing coaching intervention. Acknowledge any achievement, no matter how small, during the follow up meeting, as soon as possible following any achievements.

The authors conclude that your role as a group leader is to “praise achievements back to acceptable levels of performance.”