I’ve managed many teams down the years. Some were great, some unfortunately not so great. My teams, like many, were scattered with a splattering of superstars, lots of steady eddies and sadly quite a few slackers. The reality in practice is that managing all three of these types can be fraught with difficulty if you take your eye off the ball. Here’s my take on it…
On the face of it you would think you could simply leave the stars to get on with it but of course taking this stance has its pitfalls. It could lead to a feeling of resentment on their part, “Why am I going the extra mile and the others aren’t?” It’s really important to regularly acknowledge and appreciate their contributions so as to keep them motivated. You trust your stars and so there’s a temptation to delegate sometimes maybe too much to them, or even the mundane tasks that you don’t like doing. Again there could be a potential risk of resentment – “Why am I taking on extra duties for no extra money and everyone else is getting away with doing less?” The risk is that over time, if not managed correctly, they will end up slipping back into the steadies camp and be less motivated to go the extra mile. Worse still, if they feel they’ve gone as far as they can go in their roles and you don’t have a succession plan in place for them, they might leave altogether – that’s where the real problems start, especially if you’ve no contingency plan to cover their exit either!
The key to managing a steady is to find out what their motivation is. Do they have career aspirations? Do they just want to come in do a good job and go home? Are they bored with their current role? Without finding out the answers to these questions it’s very difficult to proactively manage and get the best out of them. Ignore the steady eddies for their average performance at your peril – this group are usually the backbone of your team and vital to its continued performance. Your primary objective with this group, once you’ve found out what makes them tick, is to keep them fully engaged – yes, attempting to develop all of these individuals sounds great, but if they simply don’t want it, then don’t penalise them for keeping your ship afloat and on course.
There are different kinds of under-performers. There are those that used to perform well and their performance has dipped and those that have always under-performed since they started in the role. Either way, the key is for you to investigate the reasons and/or gaps in their under-performance and fix them. I’ve certainly been guilty in the past of diving straight in only to find out the reason was a personal problem and had to pick up the pieces as a result. It may also be a case of a square peg in a round hole – maybe their skills have been mis-placed and can be put to better use elsewhere in the organisation? The best place to start with slackers is to sit down and agree a transparent, straight forward performance improvement plan so that expectations and opportunities for improvement are clear – and then stick with it. This may sound harsh but the slackers will manage themselves either in or out of their roles; your job is to facilitate this transition and be there to support them through it, either way.
Who are your stars? Who are your steadies? Who are your slackers?
Being a great Manager is all about being proactive, so grab a piece of paper and draw three columns and then note down which category your individual team members fall into (-remember this is not a static list and often changes over a period of time.) Then create a plan detailing how you are going to manage each individual for improved performance. You might want to burn the piece of paper when you have carried out this task!
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