Skip to main content

Release the Pressure

By November 27, 2010February 14th, 2019Articles, leadership

There is nothing more frustrating in business when people are just not pulling their weight. After you have clearly defined what they need to do, believe they know how to do it and they just don't! And then come the excuses as to why things have not been done as they should. It's always someone or something else's fault. It can really make your blood boil. After all, you do the things you need to do right? You're the leader, you can not sit back and blame others for things not happening. If you did, your business would go bust!

Then a funny thing happens. You are a little resistant to having the conversation with "Fred". After all, you know what the response will be which will frustrate you even more. So you end up doing the task yourself, or you ask someone else to do it. It's easier and it keeps the peace. Fred get's away with it ….again! And here lies your problem. You have accepted Fred's poor behaviour and Fred will do it again because he can. You have let him. 

Interestingly, Fred may not be aware of his shortfall. How can he not be I hear you say? Well, some people are just not aware they are not meeting expectations. They simply do not have that level of awareness. Or it could be a conscious choice. Either way, unless it is brought to their attention, they do not have the opportunity to change it. As a strong leadership "brand" this is your role. You need to "inspect what you expect" – consistently. Regardless of whether you believe they are aware of it or not, you need to provide your team member an opportunity to change and reinforce your expectations of them. This needs to be done in a formal manner. By doing this, you are then giving Fred the choice whether he meets the expectations or not. His choice will generate reward or consequence and your role is to simply observe his behaviour and articulate your observations. Now, when you look at the situation like that it appears pretty simple!

Let me give you some tips to help. And hey, this approach can work in any situation, even with kids!

·       Raise the issue you have observed. Observed is the key word here. After arranging a formal meeting with Fred, you will bring to his attention the "issue" that you have observed him not completing according to his expectations. By stating you have observed the behaviour, normally a non-action, you are not accusing and the meeting can be less threatening to Fred. It also removes the opportunity for a third party to be brought into the conversation. For example "Who said that – it was Nancy wasn't it?" For you as the leader, this can remove some emotion also, as you are simply letting your team member know what you have observed in their behaviours/actions.

·       The Prevention. A great open question to ask Fred is "What prevented you from completing this task/s?". Do not start the question with "why". When why is used it evoked a defensive response and will lead Fred to blame, justify and delve into problem. You are wanting to work to a solution and identify if there is a skill gap or clarity gap with Fred. After asking Fred what prevented him from doing the task, remain silent and wait for the answer. Do not try and rescue Fred if he is not coming up with anything, wait for the response. You need to ensure Fred responds.

·       Reinforce the expectation. Confirm with Fred what your expectations are of him, both in results and behaviours and ensure that Fred understands. To ensure he understands, ask Fred to repeat back to you what you have outlined in his own words. This reinforces the expectation into Fred's conscious awareness. Ensure Fred understands he plays an integral role within the team and if he doesn't perform it affects the business and the rest of the team morale.

·       Plan of attack. What does Fred now need to do differently to ensure that he meets the expectation? What does he need to start doing, stop doing, change, continue? Fred needs to articulate this and this needs to be recorded in written form so it can be referred back to. The leader should ensure Fred writes this down.

·       Confirm action. Confirm action with Fred and ensure a timeline is established for completion. Ensure a follow up meeting is arranged with Fred to review his performance. Again, ensure Fred is crystal clear about what is expected of him, the actions he needs to take from here and if there is a consequence to any further similar behaviour. And of course the reward for performing to expectation.

Now, by bringing the situation to Fred's attention, you have given him the choice whether he meets the expectation or not. You have also provided a safe, private forum for him to raise any skill, confidence or clarity gaps to enable you to work through these together. Fred now has the power to perform or not. It will be a very conscious choice if he doesn't this time! 

Your role now is to observe Fred's behaviour. That's it. Simply observe. Fred has the power to perform now and it's up to him. The responsibility is on his shoulders not yours. You will reward if he meets the expectations on a consistent basis and deliver consequence if not. The end result is up to Fred. You have done all you can by highlighting the issue and providing Fred with the opportunity to change.

 As a leader, that is your responsibility.