How to Deal with Chronic Underperformers

January 25, 2017

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I'm Deb- CEO, worldwide executive coach, mentor, consultant and speaker. I'm here to help you take your leadership and impact to the next level!

Meet Deb

In our work with large organizations focused on building strong teams, we have noticed one key fundamental that is being missed by many organizations. That is the value of strengths-based placement.

How is this evidenced?

It can be summed up in one word: underperformance.

My colleague, Mike Harbour, relates the story of an employee who was an underperformer. She had been shifted to different positions within the organization, but the underperformance continued. She was in a customer service position in the healthcare industry. Many leaders would have opted to let her go – it may have been the easy solution – but Mike recognized it as a strengths-based placement issue.

Instead of continuing to move her around into positions where she was facing people all the time, he redeployed her to a back office role, which required little interaction. Now in her strengths zone, her performance shifted dramatically.

Redeploying people is an important concept when we talk about building strong teams, so why are companies resistant to the idea?

Company leaders sometimes resist redeployment because they just don’t have a good handle on what the real strengths of the team member are. They can see the deficits. They can see where they are underperforming, where they are not really hitting the mark. They know they are going below expectations.

But to understand an employee’s real strengths requires that the leader dig deeper to truly understand the employee. This is essential in order to redeploy them in the right area.

At times, it is rooted in the fear that addressing the issue may backfire on them as a leader – or fear that if they move a person, there won’t be someone to fill the vacant role. The fact is, the role is essentially vacant anyway, if you don’t have the right person filling it.

How can company leaders identify strengths?

The most reliable resources are assessments. We use DISC assessments to help determine each individual’s hard-wired strengths, weaknesses, preferred environments, and motivators. To the degree that a company places an employee in a position that gives them the greatest opportunity to be successful, it puts the team in a position of strength as well. We often use the Strengths Mapping technique to look at the team as a whole and ensure proper placement.

Role Problem vs. Bad Employee Problem

There is a big difference between someone who is a great employee, but they just don’t have the strengths or the competencies for a role – versus someone who is not a good employee. In the case of the latter, whether or not they have the strengths is almost irrelevant.

How do you discern the difference?

First of all, you must know what your values are as an organization.

A bad employee is someone who doesn’t line up with the values of the organization.

An underperforming employee may line up with the values of the organization – they are an asset to the organization – but they are not in a position of strength. That is where the assessment comes in. That is where good leadership, observation, and asking the right questions comes into play.

It has been said, “We hire people for what they can do, but we fire them for who they are.”

That is actually an imbalance – or an offset – of the values. We fire them because they are not in line with the values of the organization.

As a leader, you must know what the organization’s values are. When interviewing, looking to redeploy, or moving people around, you must first know if they are a values match.

If they are a values match, then finding a way to keep them, but getting them in a place that can utilize their strengths, will benefit both them and the organization immensely.

If they are not a values match, then helping them find another role outside the organization is likely your best course of action.

For more resources on leading for growth in your organization,
click below for the Leading for Growth e-book by Deb Ingino.

Mike Harbour is the Founder and President of Harbour Resources, a leadership consulting, sales training, and talent management firm based in Little Rock, Arkansas with partners in Long Island, New York and Orlando, Florida as they serve clients across the United States and the globe.

Harbour Resources services include leadership and executive coaching; behavioral assessments; leadership development for new and emerging leaders and the seasoned leadership professional; and helping to build Human Resources internal recruitment practices. In addition, Harbour Resources provides search services for “C” level, VP, executive, director, and middle management level positions in the healthcare and banking industries.

Mike spent over 20 years in the healthcare industry as a leader in hospital operations, leadership training and development, sales, talent management, and executive search. He has interviewed thousands of leaders, successfully placed hundreds of leaders, and trained thousands more, to live and lead into their full potential as a leader.

Mike’s leadership was tested and honed while serving in the United States Army as a U.S. Army Soldier/Officer. Building on this experience and success, Mike has become a leading Founding Partner on the world-renowned John C. Maxwell Team as a Certified Coach, Trainer, and Speaker. With this extensive leadership experience, Mike offers the services, training, and assessment tools to move you and your team or organization in the desired direction to reach your goals.