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What do you do when people aren’t pulling their weight?

What do you do when people aren’t pulling their weight?

John Doerr, the author of Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs says, “You can have all the technical expertise in the world, but you’ll succeed or fail in business based on whether your team makes the numbers” I don’t care how creative you are, you will need the team to hit their numbers when the product or service hits the market. Sometimes what makes innovation fail is; staff not pulling their weight. How do you deal with it?

Case in point: You make the mistake of hiring the wrong person, you wait too long to let someone go, or don’t give helpful actionable feedback. Now you are stuck with this person. They are not pulling their weight, you know it, the rest of the team knows it. You have to take action. Where do you start? I wish this was a walk in the park, it is not. It is as real as dealing with a pandemic.

Lessons on leadership are typically learned the hard way. From experience, when someone on any team is floundering, there is more than what meets the eye. Perhaps they accidentally fell into a role within your team, or they recently started contributing to an area outside their domain and are struggling — what do you do?

Evaluate if the person has got the potential of what it will take to succeed in the position. If so, keep them and give them extra attention. If not, see if they could be better in another position and move them over. If that’s not possible or desirable, let them go — the sooner the better.

Get the input of others: Ask your teammates for their opinions and add your own. Write down in one column the “must abilities” for the job and in another column what the employee has been doing. See how much of the list overlaps. I could just be a question of building confidence in this person and giving them a bit of extra training. If the overlap doesn’t exist, let them go. You need to find someone to fulfil their duties within the organization.

Is their role clear to them? Go over their roles with them. They should be written down so it’s extremely clear what their role is, and how their success is measured.

Evaluate the workload: Is it reasonable? Have other people been able to successfully handle it before? If you compared the role to a similar role at a competitor company, would the responsibilities align?

Is it a case of growth resistance? If the person is saying, “I don’t know” or “I’m not confident” — that’s one thing. Responding with offering training and coaching is appropriate. On the other hand, them saying flat-out “no” to a job responsibility is another situation entirely. Confronting that in the moment is effective by saying something like, “It sounds like you think this request is optional, and I want to be clear that it is not optional. This is part of your job duty here, and part of why you were hired.”

Ask for their thoughts on their own performance: Information surfaces when we ask the people to share how they think they’re performing.

Wondering what else you can do when a direct report is underperforming? Let’s have a chat!

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