Published date: October 25, 2017
Last modified: October 20, 2017

The three reasons why employees underperform


What an ongoing struggle it is to get employees to perform. This topic always seem to be about getting our employees to step up and do great work, but what are the fundamental reasons that individuals and teams don’t perform as we want them to?

Employees feel incapable. Employees who are incapable have core abilities that do not align with the abilities required to complete the activities of the job. Every job has very specific activities that are key to performance and therefore success in the job. For example, the activities of an accountant are to close the books, create reports, analyse performance, ensure compliance with procedures, etc. These activities require a strategic, analytical, methodical and detail-oriented person. If your accountant employee is not that, performance is a challenge. Many times the primary reason for employee underperformance is in hiring employees who do not fit their role – they do not have the abilities that align to the specific needs of the job. Solution: Include the required abilities in addition to skill and experience criteria when defining the performance profile of the job; hire for abilities as well as skill and experience.

Employees feel disconnected. Employees who are disconnected do not share or understand the direction, vision, belief or mission for the business; there is no emotional connection to the business. When employees understand the beliefs and vision of the business and they align with their personal values, they are more engaged, committed and passionate about their performance. Think of the way employees who work at Google feel about innovation, the way employees feel about coffee at Starbucks, the way employees feel about service at Zappos, the way employees feel about the outdoors at Patagonia. Our performance is fueled by our passions and values – and diminished by our lack of interest or connection. Solution: clearly share your vision and belief about the business and source/hire employees who share your beliefs.

Employees are unclear. Sometimes employees do not have or understand their specific performance expectations – they don’t know what a successful or -done right- outcome is; they have no performance standard. Here is a personal example: when my kids were younger it seemed we were always in conflict with them about keeping their rooms clean. The problem was we didn’t share the same definition of ‘clean room.’ So, once the room was cleaned ‘at expectation’,  we took a picture – then taped it to the door. This became the standard of how a room was to look when we said ‘clean.’ We all shared the same expectation or standard and now could hold them accountable for delivering this specific performance. In the workplace, employees need the same guidance about what a successful performance outcome is so that they can be held accountable to deliver it. This clarity lets them use their abilities to determine how to deliver the outcome. Solution: improve the clarity of performance expectations to ensure employees know what is expected and can perform accordingly.

Sustainably high performance requires that employees’ abilities fit the activities required of the job, they share the values, beliefs or mission of the business and they clearly know their performance expectations. We can’t expect employees to bring their A-game if we haven’t set them up to be successful. Once in place, it is fair to expect great performance.

Published date: October 17, 2017
Last modified: October 17, 2017

9 Marvellous Qualities of People We Genuinely Love to Work With

People don’t do anything worthwhile on their own: launch a business, run a company, or build a successful career. So we don’t just want great people to work with us.

We need great people to work with us. That is the only way to achieve real and lasting success. (Plus it’s a lot more fun.)

Since it’s often easier, at least initially, to spot extremely negative traits, here are nine reasons no one wants to work with you-and then what you should do instead:

  1. You never heard an idea you couldn’t steal.

An employee, a colleague, a vendor-someone has an idea. It’s a good idea. It’s a great idea.

Now it’s your idea.

Do it once and people narrow their eyes. Do it twice and resentment simmers. Do it three times and that’s the last time anyone ever shares any ideas with you.

The people we most enjoy working with have a knack for doing the opposite. They make their ideas feel like our ideas. When that happens, we all work harder. We all work with a greater sense of purpose. We all feel a greater esprit de corps.

We all are more likely to succeed.

  1. You never found credit you couldn’t take.

The people we hate working with tend to be extremely political. They jockey, they maneuver, they plot, and they always try to make themselves look better in the eyes of others-especially at the expense of other people. (After all, if I look good and you look bad, I’m that much farther ahead, right?)

People we love to work with know the best glory is reflected glory. They step back from the spotlight. They let others take the credit. They let others receive the accolades.

Most of all, they delight in gaining a private sense of fulfillment from seeing others receive public recognition-because that means everyone wins.

  1. You always find something to take personally.

A French dilettante once said, ‘I am such an egotist that if I were to write about a chair I’d find some way to write about myself.’

The people we hate to work with see themselves as the centre of their own universe, at the centre of every story they tell-and the victim of every unfortunate or negative event.

An employee misses work because he’s badly injured? Forget him-look what a mess that makes of my staffing levels! A supplier has a baby and needs to reschedule an appointment? Forget her-doesn’t she know what that does to my schedule?

Whatever happens to someone else-regardless of how unfortunate or even tragic-becomes trivial; what matters most is the effect that has on me.

The only things people we love to work with take personally are the things they can do to make life better for other people-because they feel a personal obligation to improve the lives of the people around them.

  1. You always find the dark cloud.

You land a major customer, but all you can think about is how hard it will be to fulfill the new orders. You hire a superstar programmer, but all you can think about is how much you have to pay her. You team up with an awesome partner, but all you can think about is the control you’ll lose.

Victories, in business and life, are often few and far between. Achieving something awesome (or even just a tiny bit cool) takes time and effort, so reasons to celebrate can be rare.

The people we love to work with realize that every huge goal is accomplished one small step at a time and rightly feel every step is cause for celebration. Plus they have a knack for finding the silver lining in every dark cloud. They know there is always a silver lining-you just have to be willing to look.

And by looking, they spread a sense of optimism and enthusiasm-something that is often in short supply.

  1. You never think before you speak or act.

Ever seen someone throw a chair because he thought his instructions had not been followed? I have. Ever seen someone shred an employee for a mistake it turns out that person didn’t make? I have.

Ever seen someone speak or act without thinking-and forever revised your opinion of her? I have.

People we love to work with react instantly to good news. They react instantly to offer recognition, congratulations, and praise.

But they take a long time to think, reflect, and decide the best way to speak and act when problems arise or when mistakes are made. They know their words and actions will leave a lasting impact, so they do everything possible to get it right.

Even when everything around them seems to be going wrong.

  1. You hate to let other people finish a sentence.

Interrupting isn’t just rude. When you interrupt, what you’re really saying is, ‘I’m not listening to you so I can understand what you are saying; I’m only listening to find a place to jump in and say what I want say.’

The people we love to work with listen more than they talk. They focus on what others say. They ask questions not to seem smart but to better understand.

They make us feel wise and respected.

And we love them for it.

  1. You crave constant validation.

Everyone likes praise.

But some people need praise. Some people need constant attention. They need constant validation that they are smart, capable, in charge, successful. In fact, they need to know they are smarter, more capable, and more successful than everyone else.

People we love to work with don’t care about external validation. They care about feeling good about themselves. The only validation they feel truly matters is found in the mirror.

Seeking self-worth inside themselves allows them to spend all their energy encouraging, recognizing, and validating other people-which makes them awesome to work with.

And also makes them awesome friends.

  1. You never heard a secret you wouldn’t share.

It’s hard for any of us to resist learning inside scoop. Finding out the reasons behind someone’s decisions, the motivations behind someone’s actions, the skinny behind someone’s hidden agenda-much less whether Marcy from shipping is really dating Juan in accounting-those conversations are hard to resist.

Unfortunately, the people who gossip about other people are also gossiping about us. And suddenly gossip isn’t so much fun.

People we love to work with excuse themselves from gossip and walk away. They don’t worry that they’ll lose a gossiper’s respect-they know that anyone wiling to gossip doesn’t respect other people anyway.

Instead, if they decide to share a secret, they speak openly about their own thoughts and feelings. That way they’re not gossiping.

They’re just being genuine-and we all love being around people who are genuine.

  1. You never had a sermon you wouldn’t preach.

The higher you rise, the more you accomplish, the more likely you are to think you know everything, the more likely you are to think you need to tell other people everything you think you know.

Some people speak with much more finality than foundation. Some people think a position or ‘status’ automatically confers wisdom. And that means other people hear-but don’t listen.

People we love to work with share their thoughts in a humble and unpretentious way. They care about what we know.

After all-they already know what they know.



Published date: October 3, 2017
Last modified: October 3, 2017

For Leaders there are two sides to trust

There are two sides to trust: the first is outward-looking and grows from one’s past experiences with a particular person; the second is in-ward looking and come’s  from one’s own history, particularly from childhood experiences. The level of trust any person feels is fed by both of these sources. You have control over the outward facing one, so start there. The technique is simple – well simple to explain: start being trustworthy.

Trustworthiness is encouraged by a number of actions that are within your power to take:

  1. Do what you say you will do. Don’t make promises you can’t or won’t keep. Most people’s trust problems have been learned from untrustworthy actions in the past.
  2. People trust others whom they believe understand them. Listen to people carefully and tell them what you think they are saying. If you have it wrong, accept the correction and revise what you say, it is also the basis for good interpersonal skills.
  3. People trust those who are looking out for their best interests. Understand what matters to people and work hard to protect whatever is related to that.
  4. Mistrust begins when people are unable to read you. Share yourself-honestly. Hiding short comings may improve your image, but it doesn’t build trust. Admitting an untrustworthy action is itself a trustworthy action.
  5. Ask for feedback and acknowledge unasked for feedback on the subject of your own trustworthiness. Regard it as valuable information and reflect on it. It may be biased, and you don’t have to accept all of it. But check for important half-truths.
  6. Trust is mutual or it is very shallow. Don’t try to push others to trust you further than you would trust them. Your own mistrust will be communicated subtly and will be returned to you in kind.
  7. Try extending your trust of others a little further. Being trusted makes one more trustworthy, and trustworthy people are more trusting.
  8. Trust doesn’t automatically come with friendship. Don’t confuse being trustworthy with ‘being a buddy.’ Being a buddy for a purpose is an untrustworthy act.
  9. Building trust takes time. Don’t be surprised if your trust building project is viewed a bit suspiciously. Asking people to let go of their old mistrust of managers and you in particular, means a significant transition. Their mistrust, -justified or not was a form of self-protection, and no one readily gives up self protection.
  10. If all of this is too complicated to remember and you want to a single key to building T.R.U.S.T., just remind yourself, ‘always tell the truth.’

As to what you can do with the inner face of mistrust -which goes back to people’s childhood – the same advice holds true. The difference is that if a person’s history has reinforced mistrust, you will make even slower headway than combating mistrust you earned by your own actions. But you can make headway with even the most mistrustful person, so get started. Every hour that mistrust continues makes transition more difficult than it has to be.