Tuesday, August 16, 2011

When Pete's Best Work Seems to Be Offbeat

Almost every manager has a Pete Best problem. That’s the employee who is good, but not good enough, named after The Beatles’ first drummer who was replaced after two years by Ringo Starr.

It may or may not have been a tough decision for John, Paul and George, but most managers struggle with the employee who is OK but not good enough and prevents their team from getting to the next level.

In our work with clients we often encounter people like Pete. We work with their managers in a respectful way to make sure the issue is dealt with proactively and fairly.

When employees aren’t performing as well as desired there are only four reasons, and four appropriate responses. They are:

  1. Goals: Are the goals clear? Ensure goals follow the SMARTER formula: Simple, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-Defined, Engaging and Rewarding. If you are still using the SMART formula you need to change.
  2. Competence: Is the employee capable of the required performance? Coach them in what to do if necessary, or see they get appropriate training.
  3. Circumstances: Have things changed for which the manager is responsible or capable of changing? Remove barriers, facilitate problem solving or renegotiate the goal if necessary.
  4. Accountability: Is it a problem of accountability? Apply appropriate consequences to manage them up or manage them on.

We follow a structured process that feels right to the manager and helps the organization move forward. The obviously incompetent are easily identified and dealt with. The biggest danger to team performance is the just competent enough.

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