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Under performing Patrick!

For the next seven weeks, we're going to be dealing with a different issue from our Winning Cards series. This week, it's Under performing Patrick we're concentrating on.

Dealing with staff who are under performing forms an important part of performance management and we often hear from our clients that this area of the business is one of their biggest stressors. When just one person in the team isn't performing as highly as the rest, issues can manifest very quickly. Staff morale can dip if others are taking up the slack of a colleague, customer complaints can hinder every area of your business and projects can quickly be put under time/resource pressure.

How do you motivate that difficult staff member? What's really the best way to support him or her through a difficult time or enhance their performance? How should you critique them, so you inspire and avoid crushing their confidence? It's critical to get these approaches right first time, there are often no second chances where employer/employee relations are concerned.

One of our clients (we'll call her Jane) managed this so effectively that she turned one of her poorest performing employees into one of her best. How? She came on one of our management courses and then followed up with some coaching for herself. By using a coaching centred approach rather than a traditional directional approach, within the month, she was able to use this in the workplace. Here's what Jane concentrated on and what we recommend, to help you tackle difficult staff members just like 'under performing Patrick';

Use far more open questions. Open questions of course are those questions which encourage information and avoid yes/no answers. For staff who are under performing, you're going to want to engage them in conversation to really get to the bottom of their behaviour. Asking questions that start 'How' & ''What' for instance get people talking and means you'll learn much more about their situation. Questions that begin with 'Are' and 'Do' are closed questions and can only really give rise to yes/no answers. Start listening to the questions you naturally want to ask and rephrase closed questions into open ones.

Learn to listen more. It sounds obvious, but making sure you listen to your staff can make the world of difference very quickly. Eye contact is really important when you're talking to a disruptive member of staff, when you ask a question, wait for their answer – even if there's silence for a few seconds. Resist the temptation to jump in and re-phrase the question or butt-in half way through their answer. Listening also means being genuinely interested in them and having an open mind about the solution. Put aside your annoyances over their performance for a few minutes and listen to their opinion or point of view, you'll get much further, much quicker.

Ask yourself if you're giving autonomy to your staff? A coaching approach is based on the fact that each individual understands exactly what they need to do differently in order to make change. Too much micro-managing and too many rules are likely to inhibit someone's natural performance flow. Agree what you want them to do and by when and then find out how they'd prefer to get the job done.

Do you really know what gives your staff positive job satisfaction? Making sure you know what motivates each individual staff member is key to shaping them into a valued member of the team. Finding out is as simple as asking them. To follow up, make sure whatever promises you make, you keep and make sure you remember what motivates them and can use that strength every day going forward.

More and more managers are adopting a coaching centred approach to manage their staff issues as well as their business. Click the links for further information on coaching at work.

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