So There’s a Problem on Your Team…by Jim Johnson

No manager/leader will ever have a career where everything goes according to the plan.  Something is wrong on the team you lead. The wheels get wobbly on the wagon.  Sometimes they fall off.  Sometimes you have folks in the wagon that you wish were on someone else’s wagon.  Stuff happens.

There are times where a turn-a-round is a pretty simple fix.  Then, again, you’ll be faced with a team that is out of sorts – with each other, with you, or both.  Those times can be tough.

As the leader of your team, it is your responsibility to keep everyone on the same page, right?  Your boss will expect this of you.  Your company’s culture, I’m sure, demands it.  Teams that don’t function appropriately quickly stand out.  Managers who lead these teams also stand out.  So if you’re “stuck” in this situation, how do you handle it?

First, own it.  Whatever is happening…whatever has been said…what ever is the complaint…own what you can of it.  Take responsibility.  There is truth in difficult situations.  Find it and act upon it.  Yes, there will be drama, lies, and innuendos.  Stay clear of those.  Acknowledge the truth and act.

Second, understand your role and your team’s role.  As the leader, you will be setting the tone and leading the charge towards change.  Your team will be watching you.  That’s good.  Model the appropriate attitude and behaviors.  And know that it’s not all on you.  Each member of your team needs to be committed to helping the team out of its hole.  Personal opinions and biases get in the way.  Leaders can fall into the trap of blaming the team.  The team will talk about the leader behind his/her back.  Everyone is looking for a personal win.  But in business, “the house wins”.  You and your team needs to realize that the success of the business is paramount.  The best scenario is to bring alignment from both the leader and the team to what will be the “win” for the company.

Third, communicate.  If things aren’t going as you wish they were, don’t stop communicating.  You are still the manager.  Tell your team where they are succeeding.  Share with them where they are not.  Communicate change clearly.  If you don’t, your team will fill the “holes” with what they assume is happening in the change.  

Fourth, coach.  Spend significant time moving your individual team members forward.  A difficult team environment is not an excuse to stop developing your team.  They need you more than ever.  Keep the conversation on personal growth and your team’s/company’s metrics.  Don’t get caught up in the drama of one employee talking poorly of another employee.  Keep the conversation on what that team member can control and encourage them to meet/exceed their goals.  Give them the resources to do it.  Be there for them.  

Fifth, listen.  If you don’t, someone else will (i.e. HR, CEO).  Practice active listening.  Ask questions and then listen.  Take notes.  Follow up and follow through on what you hear.  Your team has a voice – listen to it.  

If you’re in a rough team environment, take heart.  You have what it takes to lead them out of it.  Keep short accounts with your team.  Don’t ignore bad behavior.  And by all means, DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT your interactions with your team.  You’ll be glad you did.  

You are a team leader.  If your team is off track, lead them back on it.  It won’t be easy.  But it’s your job, right?  You can do it.  


“Nothing will work unless you do.”  Maya Angelou



Bad Employees Never Quit!


Great article I found in Twitter…

I had to laugh when I read the recent article in the WSJ that validated what I learned years ago. Bad employees are happy employees. In over 40% of the companies they surveyed, low performers were found to be more engaged and enjoyed working for their companies more than middle and high performers. Why wouldn’t they be?

More often than not, poor performers have zero consequences to their actions. I’ve heard more than one new manager say,” I’m just going to make their life miserable and then I know they’ll quit.” NO THEY WON’T. They never quit for all the reason this study has now demonstrated. If you have a poor performer you have to take action. It’s not as hard as you think (unless you work for the Federal Government). Here are some quick and easy steps to ensure your deadbeat moves out:

1. Start with the “bad fit conversation”. More than likely none of your predecessors has had an honest and direct conversation with this person. Too many managers are crisis avoiders. In fact, they probably recommended them for a transfer into your unit. So start off with something soft like, “ you seem like a really great person, but I’m not sure this role is a good fit for your skill set”, and then go on to list all the reasons this is true.

2. Begin the formal documentation process. It’s just a matter of time before the brief performance improvement you might see after step 1 starts to erode. So you need to put it in writing. Unless your company has a formal document, you can us a simple counseling form that spells out exactly what’s expected, the date you want the task completed and what happens if he/she fails. It’s important to keep the dates short, to be as specific as possible and include termination as a consequence. You might want to run this by your own manager or HR partner first.

3. Continue with updating the documentation. Again, it’s possible that the performance improves after your employee receives a written documentation, but make sure it’s not shelved. Update it every quarter and include new goals. It is possible that your employee will improve forever, but in my experience, it really is about being a bad fit so it’s highly unlikely.

The real benefit of finally firing the poor performer is that the morale of your high performers increases exponentially. Don’t be surprised when they come to your office and thank you for taking action. Everyone knows when someone is skating by and it de-motivates the people around them. Plus you earn the respect from your team for being someone that’s not afraid to make the hard decisions.