One of the most common questions I get from my clients is how to get an employee who is not performing to perform. They often can tell me exactly what the problem is but they are at a loss to resolve it. They usually say that they have talked to the employee about the problem but nothing has changed. Here is a pattern I see frequently;

1. We think that bad behaviors mean bad people. We equate a person’s behavior in a particular area with their value as a person. Separating behavior and who a person is makes it easier for you to see the situation.
2. Often when we talk to employees about unacceptable behavior, we are uncomfortable. We don’t like confrontation and conflict so we hedge our words and are not crystal clear about the exact behavior that is the problem. Being direct and specific about an unacceptable behavior gets the message across.
3. Sometimes we wait to talk to an employee until we are extremely frustrated. We have gathered a laundry list of issues and failures to justify that we should talk to them at all. When we finally do talk to them, our message is clouded with emotion and we blast them with a fire hose full of all their faults. The employee reacts emotionally, becomes defensive, and isn’t sure what to address.

You may recognize a situation in which you fell into part or all of that pattern. Or perhaps you have seen a boss or coworker fall into it. I teach a simple method to break that pattern. All it takes is a little planning and, most importantly, having the employee’s and the organization’s best interests in mind. I call it the Feedback Model and here is how it works.

1. Choose a behavior that is most impacting the employee’s performance. Be direct and specific about the exact behavior and give examples. Make sure that you feel they understand what you are talking about. Be patient in this step and persistent even though they may show emotion and present excuses. Work to get agreement that they are behaving in that way. Resist the temptation to address multiple behaviors. Once you start to get the improvement you can come back to those and use this same method.
2. Explain to the employee the implication of this behavior. Give specific examples about how it is affecting; you, the team, themselves, the organization, etc. Doing this will help them see why their behavior is not OK. If they can understand the impact and agree with it, they are far more likely to make a permanent change.
3. Get agreement on what change is needed. Talk with the employee about what the new behavior looks like and when you expect to see it happen. Listen closely to any objections and barriers the employee may think they have and make sure you work through them before finishing the conversation. There may be legitimate reasons for the behavior that you need to understand, or, the employee may need to see that they are just making excuses for not performing. At the end of the conversation, have the employee say out loud what they are now going to do.

As a leader, your job is to get the whole team to perform at their best. Being intentional about working through issues with people, while difficult and uncomfortable, is part of getting there. By the way, this model works well outside of the workplace also.

Need help improving on getting your team to perform? I am happy to talk with you about that. Call Linda Allison at 740-502-2266 or e-mail me at to discuss.

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