Five Ways to Turn Stragglers into Stars

Every manager has had one in their team. That one person who seems to drag everyone else down. The straggler. The dead wood. The energy sucker. The toxic employee. They do the minimum amount to just get by, routinely blaming the system and others, constantly complaining and gossiping.

With poor performing employees, the Pareto principle applies. As their manager, they consume the vast majority of your time and energy. Typically, 80 percent of management time is spent on the 20 percent lowest performers.

The easiest and most obvious solution seems to be to eliminate the problem by finding the fastest route to facilitate their exit from the business. In itself that goal starts consuming even more management attention, not just yours as their line manager but also colleagues from other functions like HR and Legal.

Before you start researching breach of labour law, consider that there may be something you can do to turn your worst performer into your shining top player.

  • Introduce One-one-One Coaching

Possibly the fastest and most effective method of addressing poor performance. Coaching is not managing. Learn the fundamental skills of asking questions, active listening, building rapport and framing your language. Behaviour is the result of the communication that has been understood. Sharpen your coaching skills to eliminate any possible miscomprehension.

  • Investigate Engagement

Patrick Lencioni asserts that the three causes of employee disengagement and job misery are anonymity, irrelevance, immeasurement. Is every member of your recognised, understood and appreciated for their unique qualities? Do they see how their contribution is important to the team and the business? And, are they able to gauge their progress and level of contribution for themselves?

  • Eliminate Blame But Manage Conflict

Even if blame is part of the wider organisational culture, you can take responsibility to eliminate it from your team. Always role model the behaviour you wish to see. Adopt a feed-forward attitude to evaluating performance, focusing on lessons-learned and what can be done differently. Always deal directly with conflict. Practice transparent negotiations to avoid politics and taking-sides. Ensure all team members understand that conflict can be healthy and is necessary to get the best results. Set ground rules for healthy challenges based on positive communication.

  • Truly Accept and Nurture Diversity

People like people who are like themselves. It’s great when you get on, you share similar values and work in a complimentary manner. It’s easy and enjoyable. However, you are not benefiting from having different perspectives, opinions and backgrounds. It can actually be difficult to adopt working structure and methods that bring the best out of each individual in the team. Use profiling tools to determine communication styles, personality preferences and strengths. Build your team for diversity and adapt your method to be inclusive.

  • Assess Levels of Resilience

Hyper-connectivity of the workplace has increased the complexity and demands faced by employees globally. Employees are expected to be responsive, anytime and anywhere. It’s no wonder that stress and burn out are on the rise and negatively impacting wellness and productivity. Introduce methods that help build resilience by managing energy not time. Respect the differences between the introvert and extrovert members of the team and make sure that every member is getting information and support to help stay healthy and productive.

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