It can be frustrating when individuals do not execute on their responsibilities. When it is a member of our own team that is underperforming, we have the opportunity to directly manage that performance and to restate our expectations to increase understanding and alignment. If that doesn’t bring about the improved performance, we have access to the seven-step feedback process I teach in the Fit Leader’s Program, and then if necessary to our organization’s progressive discipline policy.
When our frustration comes from the underperformance of others in the organization that we do not directly manage, it can be tempting to “take matters into our own hands”, by doing one or more of the following:
- Taking the project or deliverable away from the underperforming individual, relieving them of the responsibility to complete the project in accordance with our expectations.
- Ignoring the underperformance and face a missed deadline, an incomplete project and/or frustrated team members who are not getting what they need from this under-performer.
- Bad mouthing the underperforming individual in front of others and/or threatening the individual in some way.
Taking one or more of the actions listed above can show disrespect for the role our colleagues have in managing the performance of their own team members, and can result in unanticipated consequences.
A more effective strategy when dealing with individuals we do not directly manage is to first have a conversation with that individual’s direct supervisor. We can let this supervisor, which is usually one of our peers in the organization, know of the challenges being created by one of their direct reports. This conversation often leads to some intervention on the part of the other supervisor to correct the underperformance of their direct report.
If the supervisor prefers that we engage in a conversation with their direct report, given that we are often closer to the situation than they are, that also is a viable approach. In our conversation with underperforming individuals, our job is to coach them to improved performance by getting them to identify and appreciate the consequences they are creating when they do not perform consistent with expectations.
Another approach, which is often overlooked, is to request that the individuals who are most affected by the underperformance of someone on the team, engage in a direct feedback conversation themselves with their fellow team member, rather than looking to us to have that conversation.
Accountability for results is the ultimate measure in organizations. Our job as leaders is not to compromise accountability by letting people off the hook, or allowing our frustrations to direct our actions in unproductive ways.