• Lacy Starling

#20: Are You Setting People Up for Success?

Recently a client called me with a problem: they had an employee who was under performing in his role, and they wanted to replace him with someone new. In these cases, I always run through a list of questions (I love starting with questions), starting with asking when was the last time this person received a review, and was that review good or bad?


Most of the time, the response I get is that they received a review six months ago or longer, and it was a good one, which is the ultimate in frustration for me. Imagine if you did this with your children: every year, or six months, you sat them down and told them all the things they'd done well or poorly in the previous period and what you expected from them in the next six months or year. Then, every time they did something wrong, you simply shook your head and grumbled about it but never addressed it directly with them. Do you think they'd be the type of kid you'd want to keep around, after a couple years of this?


And that's not to say our employees are children, or that we should infantilize them—absolutely not. But it is absurd to think that someone is going to psychically know that you are displeased with their work or production or interactions with their co-workers if you never tell them you are unhappy. So many managers, though, avoid these conversations and then reach a boiling point where they want to fire someone who has never been given the chance to improve. It is wildly unfair to the employee and wastes months of time when they could have been doing better.


Regular, detailed feedback, especially in times of less-than-stellar performance, is the only way you'll find out if someone is capable of improvement. If they aren't, you'll know that you gave them every chance to be successful, and you can replace them without having to call your consultant to see if it is the right thing to do. And if they ARE capable of improvement, and they DO improve, you've just gotten exactly what you wanted all along—better performance—without the cost and loss of productivity that comes with hiring someone new. That's the very definition of a win-win.

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