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3 Ways to Help Associates Up Their Game

When you start to notice that your team isn’t performing at maximum potential, you have to move quickly.

Performance management is a slippery proposition – and one that can very quickly deteriorate out of control.

As leaders, one of our key values has to be to select, hire, train, and motivate the very best teams.  That means that if performance is starting to slide that you have to do something about it.  The attitude of ignoring it and hoping it gets better is not a winning strategy to be sure.

So it does begin with a kind hand.  Remember that unless we are talking about insubordination or a violation of business rules, then chances are we are talking about modifying daily behaviors.  There is a good chance that if you bring the hammer for small infractions, you’ll lose the person altogether.  While speed and quick action is necessary, you can absolutely do so in a way that doesn’t send your Associate into a further downward spiral.

So let’s talk about what do when you notice that your team may not be firing on all cylinders:

  1. Make sure that the associate is crystal clear about expectations. Often front line associates lament that they didn’t know what the expectations were from their leaders, thus making it hard to hit the target.  Sometimes this is just a ploy to deflect, but often it is an accurate assessement.  During the selection process, through onboarding, and into daily work, you should make it abundantly clear what the expectation is for work performance.  If there is an expectation of working less than glamorous hours, the need to be nice to Guests, dress policy, or required production targets, these should not be surprises to your team.  Make sure they understand the need for fantastic safety as well as the base pieces of their job.  Training can absolutely help here, as those who are well trained in their jobs report better overall satisfaction and engagement – which leads most times to delivering a quality experience to Guests.

  2. Ensure that they understand where they are falling short Your team can’t improve if they don’t understand where things are going off the rails.  Chances are we are not talking about huge miscues.  The problem with small executional issues is that they snowball quickly and before you know it, your organization can be in crisis mode.  Worse than that, once the attititude of “no one knows what is going on around here” starts to permeate your atmosphere, it can poison even your best team members.  If performance issues aren’t dealt with, one of two things happens.  Those with the best work ethic and execution will begin to execute at a lower level on par with their colleagues or they will just leave your organization for a better opportunity. Dealing with performance issues is tough stuff – let’s face it, anytime you have to sit someone down and tell them they aren’t cutting it is a tough day.  And its okay that you feel that way, because it keeps you grounded in the idea of being kind to folks, even when the conversation is around their need to improve.  You have to be straightforward and right to the point.  Remember that the hope is that their work will improve and they will remain a part of your organization, but for that to happen you can’t mince words.  Let them know precisely what is not meeting the standard and what success looks like.  Also be sure they understand the impact on the business, the Guests, and the team when they don’t perform at a high level.

  1. Craft a path back to success together When you finish the conversation around performance, it isn’t enough to just tell your team members where they are falling short and then leave them to figure it out on their own.  Most Associates in that position will absolutely fail.  There are those that find motivation in adverstity and will pull themselves out on their own, but a majority will likely crumble and be gone from your organization soon.  There was likely a reason why you hired your team members, so helping them course correct their performance will bring that value to the team that you must have seen in them at one time.  Make it clear that they are responsible ultimately for upping their game, but that you are there to help them along the way.  Make sure you give them your opinions and ideas, and craft an action plan together to bring things back in line.  Performance plans or action plans have a bad name out there – but only because folks don’t use them right.  Take the time to craft a plan that shores up training deficiencies and highlights behavioral changes that will lead to results.  Involve the associate in the creation of the plan and then meet regularly to review.  You have to invest in the process as well if it is to succeed.

So remember, performance management can be uncomfortable.  But like everything else it gets easier over time.

A key item to remember is that the earlier you catch performance issues the easier they are to correct.  If you wait too long you’ll have a real uphill climb on your hands.

It also begs repeating that when you select talented team members, train them well, and treat them with respect, they are less likely to have performance issues or to leave your organization.

So treat your team just as you would your Guest – Like cherished friends.


Tony Johnson -Guest Experience Leader-

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