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Leadership Articles: TALKING LEADERSHIP

 

A Feature Article from Gaynor Consulting Inc.
February 2014   |   By Dan Gaynor

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Know Your Limitations

Every leader soon discovers that people just don't always do what you would like them to do. When this is the case good leaders step in and do something about it. Avoiding these situations hurts the team and its mission. Correcting problem performance also gives rise to one of the most common leadership mistakes – one I see weekly in my teaching and coaching practice - too many leaders spend too long trying to correct problems when the individual cannot or will not improve. When it comes to leading change, know your limitations.

Problem performance can be a product of values and or talent. At times every leader will meet with followers who argue with others, won't accept direction or accountability, act selfishly, are lazy or just plain sloppy. These are just a few of the many values issues leaders will typically encounter. Remember, values always underpin performance. The strongest performers always have a foundation of strong values. When someone is demonstrating poor values, good leaders do something about it.

At other times values are not the problem, talent is. We all have our own specific talents and no one has every talent. Some jobs are a good fit while others are a poor fit. I've known for a long time that I don't have any talent for math. Try as I may, it just doesn't come easily to me. Trying to make me into an accountant or scientist would be a frustrating experience for all concerned. When someone doesn't have a talent for the work they are doing, it will be evident in their performance and good leaders do something about it.

Let's start with the reality that changing performance for the better is a cooperative process. You can want someone to make a change but if he or she is not motivated to make the change your efforts will be fruitless. As they say, you can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink. So let's turn our attention to how the most successful leaders respond to these situations.

Don't avoid, the problem is not going to go away because you don't want to confront the individual. All successful leadership comes with a lot of constructive confrontation. These situations present many of the best team building opportunities.

Point out the performance problem clearly, provide the best coaching you can and call for the improvement you want to see.

When this doesn't give rise to improvement, you can make two more attempts. When you get to the third correction, make it clear that if you don't see improvement the individual is putting their job at risk. Some people think this is threatening but I would argue that losing a job without knowing that job was at risk is just plain unfair. Better to warn someone clearly when you get to this point, then the onus to improve is with them.

Stay respectful, even with the most frustrating situations. There is never a reason to be mean or condescending. When you get disrespectful you only derail your efforts to bring about improvement.

When three attempts to correct a performance problem fail, and you've been clear about the consequences, end the relationship. You have reached a limitation. Continuing on with more attempts sends the message that followers do not have to heed your corrections and it disadvantages your team. Your strong performers will also get frustrated.

Remember that great teams are built one person, one situation at a time. When dealing with performance problems remember your possibilities and your limitations – change is a cooperative process.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Recall a situation in which you kept trying to correct someone who just was not cooperating.
  2. How many attempts to correct do you generally make before you end a relationship?
  3. What is the impact on the team and mission when you fail to correct a performance problem?

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A Feature Article from Gaynor Consulting Inc.
February 2014   |   By Dan Gaynor

 

Has this article sparked some thinking?
Join our blog Talking Leadership here to share it with other readers.



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