Category Archives: Leadership
Last week Blanchard LeaderChat posted an article “Star Performer Not Performing?“. It addressed a question on a drop in a great employee’s work and guided the leader ask a few internal questions before reflecting on the employee in question.
It got me to thinking about how leaders in organizations can inadvertently create performance issues among their employees.
It is a default when an employee’s performance or engagement drops to scrutinize the individual, but there often can be external reasons that contribute. And believe it or not, many can come from leadership itself.
Here are some questions to ask in determining if your leadership has resulted in a decline of employee performance (individual and team):
- Have we shown them everything they need to be successful in their role? Have we left no stone unturned in making our training complete while meeting their collective and individual needs? Perhaps we haven’t led them to a higher level of performance and just assumed basic training was enough and they should get the rest.
- Did I hire for culture fit? Did I hire because that candidate made me look good? Did I oversell them on our culture when we don’t walk the talk? Maybe the culture they thought they were a part of is in reality toxic and they’re pulling away.
- Are there tendencies in my leadership that creates fear? Am I passive-aggressive in my behavior? Are people afraid to talk to me, or worse, perform for fear of failing? I might be repelling people more than attracting, and better yet, inspiring them.
- Do I demand expectations that can’t be realistically attained? Are we being overly perfectionsitic and discouraging more than encouraging? Maybe we should appreciate the effort more than the results.
- Do we create value in our employees? Have they disengaged because we don’t praise, listen or acknowledge their input or efforts? They might start seeking for affirmation in another company if we don’t course correct and recognize their value and voice.
- Am I being fair and objective in my dealings with certain individuals? Do I favor people because they’re always the stars, or give undue time to the squeaky wheels? If I neglect the ones trying everyday I may be showing favoritism and bias.
- Have we articulated our vision recently? Has alignment of our mission drifted because we didn’t promote and/or live up to our core values? If our people have lost sight of the big picture, it’s up to us to cast that vision continually to keep the spark alive.
- Have we placed obstacles in their way that hamper performance? Are their systems, communication challenges, physical/behavioral/cultural barriers that we’ve created? By removing roadblocks to performance, both unintentional and deliberate, we can open up a pathway for the to do their jobs.
While we can acknowledge that employees are ultimately responsible for their own performance, there can be contributing external factors that get in the way, such as personal financial worries, family issues, health concerns and such. Yet as leaders we should recognize ways that we may be contributing to the downfall of an employee or group of employees.
Before going to HR, drafting the improvement plan, getting the written documentation formalized – or worse – doubling down on our behavior that set the environment for such performance, we should ask these and other questions to make sure we remove any ingredients that we’ve contributed to the performance recipe.
We may be pleasantly surprised in the improvement our employee shows us once we’ve addressed our contributions.
Examine yourself first before addressing the other person. It’s the only way to provide mutual beneficial growth and a culture that values their people.
There are generally two types of people:
In any transaction, someone generally creates a good or service for another to consume.
That type of relationship is healthy and symbiotic for business and economics as a whole. But the creator/consumer system is disastrous for an organizational culture, personal relationship or even a political/citizen dynamic.
If one tends to be consumer only, without regard for how they create value to the relationship or cultural dynamic, the institution impacted can cease to exist.
Consider a spouse who demands the other cater to their needs without reciprocating. A boss who wants their employees to do their bidding so they look good and meet bonuses. An employee who sucks all the attention from their leaders, or one who takes credit from the efforts of the team without contributing.
Citizens that demand their government provide for them without being discerning voters. And politicians who gain office to impose their hidden agendas on an unsuspecting people.
In any social situation, there is always a creator/consumer dynamic that always exists. When balanced, with each faction contributing to make the other party better in serving them, the dynamic works.
When it’s lopsided with all consumers and no on contributing, the whole thing becomes in danger of falling apart.
Consuming itself it not an issue. And consuming a lot is not an issue. But if your contributions are dwarfed by your consumer disposition, imbalance has occurred. But it’s an easy fix.
Be mindful to create and contribute more than you consume.
In theological studies, the terms higher criticism and lower criticism come into play regarding the ancient texts of the Scriptures.
Simply stated (and a little over-simplified for this post), a higher critic will try to infuse their own meaning into a passage, while lower critics will try to form their understanding into the contextual words.
One tries to impart their will into the meaning (higher critic) of the text while the other (lower critic) will work their knowledge to what what written and preserved in the original words. Higher critics try to conform their understanding to what they know. Lower critics try to gain knowledge by incorporating what they discover. One is more willing to learn than the other.
So in essence, we have the higher critic looking down their nose and criticizing the words while the lower critic looking up to the words to gain a better understanding of what they mean.
A lower critic in leadership is someone who gathers facts, looks at everything in context, and as Steven Covey stated “Seeks first to understand”.Tweet
Now consider this application to our leadership.
If one is a higher critic in their leadership, they would typically look down at things, try to impart their understanding to come up with they would like to see in a situation.
Leaders who are higher critics tend to always have a pre-determined, incorrect and often negative opinion of people. They always find fault, things the person could do better, and why they don’t conform to their standards.
That perfect presentation that the client raved about wasn’t good enough. The report didn’t have enough “wow” factor. The work someone did is always being questioned because of an unknown standard that is never revealed.
Higher critics tend to be narcissists, authoritarians, and people who regard position over serving others. They usually don’t have the pulse on their people or culture, even if they “know everything that’s going on” because they are blinded by a pre-conceived notion of what things should be. These leaders don’t seek to learn or meet the needs of their people.
On the flip side, a lower critic in leadership is someone who gathers facts, looks at everything in context, and as Steven Covey stated “Seeks first to understand”.
Leaders of lower criticism look to find out why an employee’s performance is lagging. They attempt to gather the facts and make sure they give an objective, rather than emotional or subjective, assessment of what a particular situation is.
A leader of lower criticism is not a critical person like the higher critic is. They are an objective, inquisitive person who doesn’t question to poke holes, but to patch them.
It’s quite alright to expect excellence. The challenge is to criticize people into it, or find out the context and lead them up to a full understanding and competency of how to do it. Including leading yourself.
Determine to not be higher critical. Elevate others by seeking to understand the facts and your understanding to help everyone grow mutually.