- Our leaders need communication training
- She needs listening training
- The management team needs sensitivity training
- My staff have the wrong attitude
- We’ve got to teach them to…
- Motivation is lacking, and they need to learn how to stay motivated
- I told him many, many times, and he still doesn’t …
- We just are not measuring our training, and we need training on how to measure our training
All statements that you have shared with managers and consultants. Each account shares concerns about an area and a person doing wrong. All are a problem that needs a solution, and through their phrasing point to where the solution should be.
Slow down your mistake is taking these comments as the answer, and avoid working with the person to systemically understand what is going on and how the solution may look when things are different. By rushing into solutions without setting a framework that can be used to find what is working to increase and what is not working to decrease, you may commit time, money, other people’s time, and resources while leaving the problem unsolved and possibly worse.
People don’t perform as expected for several reasons.
- they do not know what is expected;
- they do not have the tools, space, or authority;
- they do not get feedback about performance quality;
- they are punished when they do it right;
- they are rewarded when they do it wrong;
- they are ignored whether they do it right or wrong;
- they do not know how to do it;
- nobody could do it.
It does no good to offer training to someone when no one can accomplish the task. Or, to provide training when the person knows that by completing the task, they will only get more work piled on and have to work more hours, while the other employees get less work.
Another series of questions for determining what is causing the performance discrepancy:
- Is the person’s direct manager ‘big enough’ to manage them?
- Are the direct manager’s goals broader in scope and complexity than the person’s?
- Has the direct manager shared the context and how this work fits into organizational goals and outcomes?
- Does the person have the ability to think through this goal and handle most of the inherent challenges ins a task of this size? Do you have evidence to support your response?
- Does the person value the work? Do they see a chance for meaningful progress?
- Does the person value their current role within the organization?
- Does the person value the company and find the organizational practices trust-attracting?
- Does the person have the skills to complete the work? How do you know?
- Have they completed similar work, in time-span and complexity, in the past? What were the outcomes? Who was held accountable for the work?
- What behaviors may be helpful for this person to complete the task?
- What behaviors may be hurtful for this person to accomplish the task?
- What behaviors have you observed that support this person’s competence in completing the work?
The reflection and discussion from both question sets above will help you move to a clearer hypothesis to create a safe-to-fail experiment. Like a scientist, you are looking for evidence to show that your theory is false in that experiment. When you find the falsity of your idea, you try something else; when you find evidence, change the work to create a supportive environment for the person to progress.
Performance discrepancy hypothesis forming questions:
- Whose performance are we looking to change?
- What evidence do you have, or someone else, that there is a problem?
- What is the actual performance that is the issue?
- When the performance changes, what are you doing more or not doing than you are currently doing?
- What will be happening in place of what is currently going on?