About 6 months ago, I inherited a poor performer that had been recently hired into the company. At the time, his previous manager (a peer and good friend of mine) had cautioned that he was having a difficult time adjusting to the new culture and jumping into a project already well in motion. For the first month or so, I cut him some slack and tried to help him get up to speed through O3's, feedback, coaching, and extra attention to his work. It soon became clear that it was not just "coming up to speed" that was the problem, but that he has several areas of weakness (or complete blank canvas) in skills that should be a slam dunk for the level in which he was hired. (In other words, he was hired WAAAY above where he can currently operate. I have other directs 2-3 levels lower that can run circles around him in the same types of projects/tasks/etc). We have an impromptu performance evaluation process that is used in mid-year promotions or for poor performance. I went through that process with him, and he seems to understand that he's operating below his level and says all the right things regarding desire to improve, etc. He generally has a good attitude and demeanor.

And yet, though there has been improvement, it's incredibly slow and requires A LOT of personal attention from me and his mentor. He seems to lack a fundamental competency in several areas that are imperative for good performance in the role (or any professional role) -- taking ownership, strategic planning, seeing the big picture, communicating effectively, providing factual information, general task management for self, taking notes, calendar management, etc. He does have strengths - he's very good at highly defined, highly technical topics, and building relationships with maintenance personnel. He enjoys operating in those scope limited, highly technical areas. He's a high C to the maximum.

So after that long story - any advice for what I should do going forward? I don't have the time, nor is it fair to my high performing DR's, to do the hand holding that appears to be required to keep getting performance improvement out of him. Any advice is appreciated! -Cal

BZOpportunityManagement's picture

This can be a tough one, but in the end managers are responsible for results. If the person is not able to deliver in the current position, and you've tried to train and mentor them with limited results, then you need to consider moving on. That is not necessarily a bad thing - perhaps this person can find a position or a level that is more rewarding and where they can have more success. For you, given you have tried to guide this individual and work with them, I don't see any way in which this is a negative to you. 

sharansingh's picture

Perfoemer need much more than good attitube. You can't beat your work with your attitube. You have to do work regarding showing your attitube.

jrb3's picture
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It's been six months and no clear path to getting to good delivery, despite his and your honest attempts?  Time to let him find a position that matches much better.  You're doing no-one any favors by keeping him on in a role he'd not be re-hired into.

Whether that's an internal transfer or letting him go, depends on what's available.

Meantime, there's plenty of podcasts here and in Career Tools which can help with the specific skills, eg calendar management.

williamelledgepe's picture
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You need to provide feedback on specific, observable behaviors.  What exactly is it the employee does that is lacking. You list several things where his skills are lacking - and I'm sure you are making an accurate observation - but your feedback needs to be based on the behavior.  For example, you list taking ownership as an area of weakness.  Taking ownership is not a behavior.  To get to the behavior, ask yourself, "How do you know this person doesn't take ownership?"  or "What is the evidence you have the employee isn;t taking ownership?"  The answer to one of those questions will get you closwer to the behavior.  The basics cast on feedback lists the 5 things that make up behavior - if it is not one of those 5 items, don't use it in feedback.  

I suggest relistening to the Feedback cast in the Basics Section and pay particular attention to Step 2: Describe behavior.

I also have a question:  If you inherited this employee 6 months ago, you should only be starting the coaching phase of the trinity rollout.  O3s should go for 6-8 weeks.  Then start positive feedback.  Then do only O3s and positive feedback for 6-8 weeks.  Then start negative feedback.  Only after negative feedback for 6-8 weeks should you slowing move into coaching.  Assuming you've been doing O3s for the entie 6 months, I'd suggest a reset in the second step of the Trinity Rollout - restart now with only O3s and positive feedback.  I also suggest listening to the Trinity Rollout cast:

Last point: It is way (WAY) too soon to be think about "moving on" or "letting him go."  Those are both very bad things. Mark says something like - you'd be eliminating his ability to pay for his addiction to food, clothing, and shelter.  Listen to the Corky story before you even start to think about firing him as an option:

duplicate_account_MarkAus's picture

I have a slightly different take on this.  It appears to me that your employee has a skills gap, which is actually one of the easier things to remedy in a problem employee.   Whichever manager hired him failed to do their job properly and therefore your company has some responsibility to give this person the tools they need to do the job.

Personally, I would sit down with the employee and work out a training schedule.  eg: I'll give you X training but you need to be at Y performance level by Z date.    Remember that coaching doesn't mean YOU have to do it.  

Also don't fall into an "impromptu" process - its time to be rigorous.  Set some benchmarks, and if those are not met then consider moving the employee into a more suitable role (or in to moving on).    But if the willingness and ability to improve is there, then you need to give this employee a chance. 

Yeah, its a giant pain in the but and it will cost your company money.  But fixing bad management (original hire) is something the company should attempt to undertake before disposing of people.



williamelledgepe's picture
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Since you've only been managing the individual for 6 months I would reset the trinity. You should do O3's for 6-8 weeks before you start positive feedback. This insures you have the relationship with the individual needed to go forward. It sounds like you've been doing O3s the entire time, so perhaps you only need to backup to positive feedback - that is where I would go. Use only positive feedback for 6-8 weeks then add negative feedback. Only after 6-8 weeks of negative feedback would I add coaching. There's a cast for that: You should also adjust your feedback to be more behavior based. You listed more than a few performance issues: "taking ownership, strategic planning, seeing the big picture, communicating effectively, providing factual information, general task management for self, taking notes, calendar management." I agree these are all problematic. To help the individual through these issues your feedback should be much more specific. If you were watching a video of "taking ownership" or "strategic planning" what is it you would see/hear? How you answer that question is the subject of your feedback. For example: "When you initiate the monthly report without my asking it shows you are taking ownership. Thank you." Or "When you file the report with inaccurate facts, Jill has to go back and correct it. Can you do better next time?" There's a cast for that: Pay particular attention to step 2. You may well be on a path to firing the individual. There's a cast for that: By the way - I posted a response just before the weekend, but it didn't show up - I apologize for the redundancy if it shows up twice.

clambert's picture

Hello All, 

First, Thanks for all the replies. Just to clarify for everyone, I started with just O3's. When his poor performance started being questioned by internal partners/customers, my manager, and my manager's manager around 2 months after I inherited him, I started weaving in feedback to try and right the ship. When it became obvious that little bits of feedback here and there (all politely, constructive, etc) was not righting the ship enough (around 4 months after I inherited him), I started adding "coaching". It doesn't entirely follow the coaching model set forth by Manager Tools. Essentially, for the behaviors that were not cutting the mustard, instead of short feedback, we spent more time exploring how we can change it, resources, and setting a goal/timeline for changing that behavior. 

One example would be his communication to project stakeholders. His presentations were very confusing, far too detailed, and when stakeholders asked questions he floundered. I attended these stakeholder meetings. After the first one that I observed, I gave him "feedback" for how to improve his presentation by boiling it down to the most important facts. After the second one, I gave him "feedback" for trying to see the presentation from his audiences eyes. etc etc. Then, after one meeting that I had to miss due to a conflict, there were a couple different people contacting me about his disasterous presentation. At this point, we transitioned into more of a hands on coaching role; setting a goal for presentation improvement, finding resources to help him with refining presentation writing & delivery, etc etc. 

I don't remember which cast it was, but I remember listening to one that essentially said, if the ship is sinking, you can expedite trinity rollout as needed to avoid disaster. 

To reply to williamelledgepe, I have been focusing on behaviors. For example - taking ownership. He does a terrible job at writing things down and remembering his own deliverables. I did not give him feedback for "taking ownership". I gave him feedback directly on keeping track of his own deliverables. 

Thanks again and keep the good info flowing!