The 8 key principles to successfully avoid low performers in your firm

In this post, we talk about the eight principles that will help you prevent most performance issues before they occur. It is a fragment of a full webinar Performance Management 101: Learn how to get team members to perform at the right level, even if they are working from home. Click here to gain access to the whole recording and transcript (email required).

The 8 key principles to successfully avoid low performers in your firm

1) People don't set out to be a poor performer.

Very often when we start talking to a Club Member what we hear is out is " They're lousy, they're poor, we can't get anything, you know, they're crap". But, actually, people don't start and set out to be a low performer.

Everyone, when they join a business, starts with the intention of being good because nobody sets out to make their life miserable. We just don't.

Three things mean that we get people going down that poor performer route. We've got situational environmental factors. Often it's this straightforward situation with several environmental factors that we don't get to grips with.

Then, we've got to look at leadership culture and the environmental situation factors. Before we designate somebody as a poor performer, but at the moment we've got new things we've got to pay attention to.

We're hearing quite a lot of our members saying: 'I had some great performers who are now working from home, and they're crap performers'. So we've got to remember that we've got an exceptional time. We've got to understand, particularly one of those situation environmental factors.

Do they suddenly now have home distractions? Are they trying to balance children, home and work? Maybe they've got noisy housemates or a noisy home working. Maybe their homes are not set up for work, you know, perhaps they've got slow broadband, or they've got teenagers nicking the bandwidth for streaming Minecraft in a collaborative mode.

We've got to help our team members, create a new normal when working from home. And that's a learning curve. And it takes time. So the first thing you do when you start going: 'I've got a poor performer' is actually think about what has happened.

2) We get the team we deserve

The culture of your firm is determined by the worst behaviour you will tolerate.

Let me remind you: the culture of your firm is to turn native by the worst behaviour you'd tolerate. To translate: if you don't say something to your team member, they're not going to change it, because we learn from each other.

'Well, if so and so can get away with that, I can get away with that'. 'If certain so is late with their timesheet, I don't need to do that'. 'If certain so doesn't tell you what they're going to bill at the end of the week, I don't need to do that because there are no consequences'.

We look at each other, at what does the boss tolerate.

As I business owner I frequently say 'We have to do this" and then I don't talk about it. And my team plays along and thinks 'If it's not important, I won't talk about it'. So, we get the team we deserve. If we take shortcuts with how we manage, there is a fallout.

3) How your team performs is your responsibility.

I see so often people abdicating their responsibility. This is the biggest thing.

As soon as you get a member of staff, whether they're freelance, whether they're permanent, temporary, an agency, whether they're, or a virtual assistant; their performance is your responsibility that even goes to the supplies that you use their performance is your responsibility.

As soon as you bring on somebody else into your practice, your number one priority is now making sure that you have provided the environment to help them succeed, that they are in a position to succeed in the work you've given them; and, this is the probably the one we don't think about, that they're comfortable to come to you to talk about the workload and how they're doing.

Interestingly, Ashley, you waived the white flag at me. You put time on my diary and said 'We need to speak about your workload, translation, Ashley's workload.'

You've got to have that, build that culture where people can come to you and say 'I'm struggling'. They can come to you willingly and go: 'I'm not sure what to do about this.'

So the other thing is we often have a mindset that it's up to the team member to have full responsibility to perform. That leads to the abdication of our responsibilities.

For instance, if I don't give Ashley a target of how many new members I want in the club, he could be like 'Oh, I've done enough.' But when I give him a target, I see that suddenly finally gets hit.

We've got to remember that our team members are busy. So, if we don't tell them what they want to achieve, WE ARE LEAVING THE GAP, but that may not happen.

We have lots of new members where we go: 'You've actually got a holiday-camp culture, rather than a high-performing culture'. But it's true if there's no consequences, stuff is not done to time or the right standard, we aren't using the right processes.

We say to people who want the daily huddles done: 'You want those daily operational meetings, are you attending them?' And they say: 'Oh, no, I'm off here'. And then we ask: 'Well if you're not attending them, who are you getting the responsibility?' Most times the answer is something like 'Oh, I hadn't thought about that. I just thought they do it themselves.'

No, we really have to shape the path, and we have to lead the staff on what we want them to do rather than them lead you. But too often we see it as the other way.

I remember one of our members, and he probably said this to yourself, but he decided he needed to be more engaging with his staff, so he decided to let the staff set the priorities. And as a result, the staff set the priorities that worked for them and at top-level, they weren't for him. But it meant that his practice efficiency went through the roof. Well, it meant that its costs went through the roof.

4) If someone is a long-term low performer, then you haven't lost anything if they leave.

We see these people who go: 'Oh no, they're a really poor performer, they're making my life hell', and we're like: 'Well, get rid of them'. And the answer is: 'I can, but we can't do that', and we go like: 'Why?' - 'Well, we won't have anybody to do the VA team returns. We won't have anyone to do this', and we go: 'but you have to redo all the VA team returns every quarter because they're so crap'... Silence.

The big thing is if they are long term low performers, then you haven't lost anything if they leave. Many members who've got rid of a long term low performer have said to us 'It's amazing how much happier the place is'.

Sometimes, the reframing of this is actually the opposite. The longer you keep a perennial long term performer and don't sort them out, the more chance that your best performers will leave because they can see you're carrying, they're carrying the poor performer.

5) We underestimate how much we actually know and how long it takes someone else to do it for us.

Now we know the shortcuts, we know where we can safely ignore some of the rules and regulations, but our staff doesn't know this. And also, we don't want them to do that.

So, we often underestimate how much we actually know and how long it takes for somebody else to do it for us. If you want them to document what they do properly, have all the notes appropriately done, in the working paper, that takes a lot of time. Remember, if you're doing this for somebody else to read and check. You're always going to put more notes than if it was just you doing it. So we have to realise that it will take slightly longer.

I remember Ashley when he first came on board in the role. It took him a lot longer to do the coaching calls, to set that up because he just wasn't used to it. He would want to follow everything by the rulebook, and I will tell him 'Yeah, you've got to do that because when you have the experience, you'll know which rules to break.'

6) Everyone has a learning curve. No one is a mind reader.

We often think 'Oh, I'm getting a new pet member of staff and they can hit the ground running. But actually no. If you, if you bring staff in with a 'sink or swim' mentality, then you're going to struggle, you're wasting a big investment.

No one is a mind reader. Everyone has a learning curve; however good they are. The best off will have a very short one, but you've got it to expect when you bring somebody in that they will need some support. If you don't tell them how you want stuff done, if you don't tell them the rules and how to do it, they can't read your mind.

7) Hire attitude first, experience/skills second.

But also we want to hire for attitude first and experience, skills second. You know, people need to fit into your team and get your why. Otherwise, you're going to have to be continually spending a lot of time influencing someone to naturally work in a certain way. While, if they get your why, when they take the initiative, they're more likely to get things done in the right way, without your support or intervention.

Everyone has potential everyone can learn something. It's about whether you have the time or money for them to get to this good experience level you need.

8) Making it always safe to talk to you is what makes a great people manager

Your role - and most people don't realise this - is to make it easy for people to come and talk to you about their workloads, to make it easy for them to go and speak to you about what's going on in their life to make it easy for them. To talk about your business things.

Too often, we shut down our communications channel, and your role is to provide a culture where people will naturally come to you and talk to you about what's going on.

Which of these eight core principles really resonated with you?

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