How to talk with a team member who isn’t meeting their goals – even in a pandemic

I forget that not everyone is out of lockdown, for all sorts of reasons. In talking over the biggest issues of the last few weeks with senior leaders to team leaders, I thought it would be navigating the different return dates and rules but it isn’t. There is one common theme. Most of them have not tackled performance conversations during lockdown, thinking it a kindness to not add ‘one more thing to the person’s plate’.

There is one common theme – most have not tackled performance conversations during lockdown!

As organisations and their people work out the best approach to working well now (it may not be the simple ‘return to work’ idea we thought it would be), it is becoming clear that what was considered kindness, is becoming a necessity. And quickly.

Be really clear, co-develop a plan

Part of managing any change is being clear on where we really are, where we need to be and why, co-developing a plan to get there and monitoring it. And that applies to individual behaviour change, project outcomes or cultural change. I can see that leaders have lost confidence and are fatigued, just like their team members, so the idea of having these conversations seems challenging. But they need to be had – in a constructive way.

In Human-Synergistics’ LSI model, it is bringing an achievement orientation – talking about goals and revising them. Are they still relevant? Are they still challenging and achievable? How do we want to ‘be’ at work? And before we get anywhere near that, asking the person how they think they are performing. Not just achieving tasks but in how they are working with the team or connecting and what might be contributing to that. Having a map can help. It won’t make it less uncomfortable but it will make it more effective and help you build this important trust-building skill. It’s one of the best long-term skills a Change Leader (Sponsor) can invest in building. Specially to help you land the results of the changes you likely have underway.

Try these five critical steps

In a recent HBR article, Sabina Nawaz gives 5 steps to having these critical and common conversations:

  • Ask before telling
  • Clarify non-negotiables
  • Connect to the person’s goals
  • Be clear about behaviours
  • Craft a plan together.

I’ve brought this approach into my coaching and I can see how leaders are using it to have the conversations they have been putting off. I hear how they are then using the agreements made in regular check-ins with their team member. From the team members, I am hearing that they now know how to work differently OR gratitude that they could finally table some of the issues getting in the way of achieving their goals and couldn’t see a way through.

Like to know more?

If you’d like to look at how to apply this in your situation, let’s continue the conversation. Coaching for individual change is one of our specialties.

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