Here are six of my favorite tips for helping motivate chronic underachievers. These work in almost any situation or job role:
1. Recognize that you, as supervisor, are in the best position to deal with your less-than-perfect performers. It’s tempting to call in HR or even an outsider to “fix” the issue when people are involved, but you know Paul, and the job requirements, best.
2. Deal with it head on. This is the time to flex your manager muscles. I’m not saying that you should lose your composure, but you need to tell Paul that he is not performing satisfactorily. Find out if anything’s wrong, if there are problems you need to know about it. That includes stuff outside of work.
3. Verify his perspective – Does he clearly know what his performance metrics are? Use open-ended questions starting (with Who?, What?, Where?, When?, and How?) and drill down to ascertain he understands his role and what’s expected quantitatively. How does he regard his performance? You may find out he thinks he’s doing as much or more than others already.
4. Right tools in the tool chest? Poorly performing Paul may have problems with his tools of the trade. This is a common issue for those working with computers.
5. Team players may not be playing well together. Every department head has seen how certain people simply rub each other the wrong way. Track performance history to see if new co-workers’ arrivals impacted the performance or productivity as far back as possible.
6. Leadership issue? This is often the issue. It’s possible that you’re the problem. How often do you discuss goals, objectives, and results openly in a team environment? The best leaders do and their team members recognize it. So, share successes and failures openly. Salute the good performers and encourage everyone to up their game. Help weak players to understand that they need to improve because they’re holding the team back.