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Helping Team Members Lift Their Performance

Business owners often encounter performance problems among their team members. This can create quite a dilemma where you are uncertain what the real issue is. After all, everyone goes through periods of feeling down and they often aren't business related. It can be an unsettling and embarrassing experience to set up a performance review for a team member only to find out they are going through a crisis at home. Nevertheless, whenever poor performance continues beyond a reasonable time you have to address it in some way.

While it may come, finally, to having to terminate the employee its best to approach this situation knowing as many of the facts as you can and with the aim in mind of helping them lift their performance to an acceptable level. So the first step isn't confronting them with their poor performance but to impartially analyse the situation overall and try and assess just what might be at the bottom of their performance problem.

1. Common Impacts On Performance

Inability to do the work
When the person was hired someone made the assessment that they could handle the type of work involved. But do they really have that ability? Look at their employment record to see if they've performed the duties of this job in a previous position. Then look at their basic abilities to see if they really match the job requirements or if you mightn't need to redeploy them. And then look at your hiring process to ensure you are testing applicants for their ability before you hire them.

Not performing at the required level
The ability to perform various tasks underpins particular skills. For example, someone might know their math – that's ability – but still need to learn a number of particular skills before they can be called a bookkeeper. Did this person bring the requisite skills to the job or do they need additional training to develop them? Will you offer to help them learn the skills or move them to a job more suitable to their real skill level? And if they do lack the skills, how did it happen that you hired a person without the right skill set for this job – do your hiring procedures need looking at also?

Doing the wrong job
It's possible that a person has the abilities and skills to do their job but hasn't been given a clear understanding of how these should be applied in the performance of their role with the company. Determine if they know exactly what they should be doing or if their knowledge is incomplete and further explanation is needed. In this case, your homework may be to develop a clear set of job descriptions for your team. Clear job descriptions can help in choosing the right people to hire, getting them productive fast and keeping them focused on doing what they were employed to do.

Suffering poor morale
There are a number of factors that can cause someone who's perfectly able to do a job well to perform their duties badly. Often the underlying cause has to do with poor morale. There could be a conflict with other team members or resentment over some management decision. If the ability, skills and knowledge are all there, but the person seems to actually choose to perform badly, you need to unearth the reasons why. That's best done in a tactful interview – preferably as part of a formal performance review process.

Fluctuating performance level
For some team members there will be 'good' days and 'bad' days. But if the bad days occur on a regular basis then they have the potential of causing disruptions to the business and upset among your other team members. You will have to plan some way to minimise any disruption they cause and manage any reduced productivity. You already know they can perform as the job requires so the question here is 'why?' It might require some quite sympathetic interviewing to establish this since it might touch on personality issues or a medical condition but you need to find out whether or not it is the sort of thing you can work around by offering flexible work arrangements or whatever.

External factors affecting performance
Things happening outside the workplace can have a significant impact on a person's job performance. There could be family problems at home, substance abuse or other factors that are not visible to you during their time at work. You need to identify the cause and determine whether the business can take any action to address the problem in terms of getting the employee productive again. The engagement of a counsellor may help the team member return to their previous level of performance.
Employee's problems have a way of becoming the business' problems so they need to be addressed quickly and effectively. It won't always be possible to find a solution to the problem but it's definitely best to try to help a team member find a way to getting their performance back on track.

2. Take Control Of Your Day

There's always a challenge to finding enough time to work on the business while keeping up with the demands of working in the business, and to deal with the new issues that always seem to be surfacing. Because long-term projects and planning activities get placed on hold while you put out fires and deal with unexpected interruptions, actual management of the business is often fragmented and very low in real productivity.

There is a simple approach to solving the time management problem that's guaranteed to work for you once you commit to it. This approach is based on prioritisation of tasks and involves four steps to implement.

Step 1. Create a 'to do' list
Make it as complete as possible by including both long-term and short-term tasks – everything that you have to do in a business day regardless of its importance or urgency. Include time for making and receiving telephone calls, as well as time for conversations and meetings. Assign everything that's there into one of these four categories:
Category 1: Urgent and Important – things that are critical to the business and have a deadline involved
Category 2: Important things but they don't have an immediate deadline
Category 3: Activities that just arise such as telephone calls or meetings not related to your Category 1 or 2 projects. They are urgent only because they need to be handled immediately but are not really important
Category 4: Activities that are unimportant and don't have to be done by any particular timeNow put this list aside for a day.

Step 2. Track your real workday
Throughout the next day, without referring to your 'to do' list, make a note of everything you do and how much time you spend on it. You're recording how you actually allocate your time during the day.
When the work day is complete go back to your 'to do' list and compare what you've actually done during your day with what you rated as really the most urgent and important tasks before you. If you're like most people you'll have spent far too much time on activities you've judged to be Category 3 and 4 types and consequently far too little time on those activities and projects that really matter.
Chances are you've wasted a fair amount of time. Experts vary in their estimates of how much time we waste each day but it's safe to say that by being more efficient we can gain an extra 5% to 10% of effective time in every day we spend at work.

Step 3. Restructure your time usage
Start by taking the prioritised 'to do' list and making an estimate of how much time every Category 1 and 2 item requires for completion. Relate these to any deadlines or completion dates that may apply and calculate just how much time needs to be spent on them each day. For example, you may have a major project that needs to be completed in ten days and will require approximately fifteen hours of your time to complete. That works out to needing 1.5 hours on average each day if you're going to meet the deadline.

Step 4. Develop your schedule
Now go to your calendar or diary and block out the necessary time you need to complete everything that's in Categories 1 and 2, that is, according to your real priorities.
Go back to your list and review everything that's in Category 4. Either delete these items from your list or delegate as many of them as possible. Things you've put into Category 3 can be handled on an ad hoc basis when time permits, but only when you are sure that everything in Categories 1 and 2 have received sufficient attention.

Once you begin working in this new way you'll find that every day is more productive. You'll be tempted to find excuses to make exceptions for one reason or another. Don't! Taking control of your day won't be easy at first, but stick with it and you'll be hours ahead every week.

3. Audit Your Approach To Customer Service

The focus of every business today, from corner shops to IT multinationals, is on providing customer service. The driving theory says that keeping customers happy is the key to customer retention; and customer retention is the key to profitability.
And these days if a business doesn't please its customers it won't be long before they go somewhere else – there are plenty of places to go.

To remain competitive every business needs to examine just how it's handling the fundamentals of customer service and look for opportunities to improve what they do. A team brainstorming session centred on a few key topics is a good way to bring new ideas to light and assess how you are performing.

What needs of your customer do you satisfy?
Every business has to offer a reason to buy from it rather than the competition – they have a unique core differentiator, or UCD. Think about how you would complete this sentence; ' My customers prefer to buy from me because my business offers…'

What do you know about your customer's needs?
UCDs work to the extent that they really do satisfy customer needs. So knowing what's important to your customer is vital to developing, and changing if necessary, your UCD. Is it fast no frills service, salespeople with specialist knowledge, the 5% discount you offer to loyal customers?

How can you personalise your offering to customers?
Even better is if you can tailor your offerings to particular customer groups. For instance, if you sell computer software or offer a package of software as an incentive to buy computers, you could develop different software packs to appeal to different buyer types like young singles and families.

How could you improve your relationship with the customer?

Real customer service goes beyond just offering products for sale. You need to establish a relationship with every customer that gives them a reason to return the next time they want to buy something. Sales are too often won on the basis of price; relationships are won through effort and dedication. Are your premises set up to sell something or are they intended to make customers feel something – perhaps make them feel comfortable or happy? Is your training all about pushing through a sale or is it based on providing genuine customer service? What do you do to make customers want to come back and see you again? Do you substitute electronic devices (telephone answering trees, for example) for people and end up losing touch with customers?
A customer service audit is only the beginning of what should become an ongoing process within your business. The knowledge you gain from conducting it needs to be addressed by immediate action that will make you a leader in pleasing your customers. Thereafter you should monitor your customers to stay aware of their likes and dislikes, and learn what you can do to please them even more.

4. Personal Marketing

Many small businesses are dependent on selling products and services to other businesses whose premises are within a short distance of their own base of operations. But geographic closeness doesn't necessarily help you get noticed by them – you can place an ad in the local paper but they may never have the time to read it.

In this situation you need to think of an alternative channel for getting noticed and one of the best is Personal Marketing. Every meeting with another business owner can be turned into an opportunity to market your business in a way that costs you nothing. Here are some ways of using personal marketing.

Remember, prospects are everywhere
Whenever you travel, attend a sporting event, go to a parents' night at your local school or even wait in line at a bank, its possible there is a potential customer among the group. So always be willing to talk to people. You never know who you might be talking to. Naturally not everyone is going to be a potential customer but even if somebody isn't a prospect for your business they may well know of another person who is.

This doesn't mean pushing yourself onto anybody and everybody with a business card in your hand, but it does mean keeping a business ear tuned in to the conversations you are having. It's really a matter of your mindset.

Develop your elevator speech
Prepare a little story about you and your business that's interesting and only takes a minute or less to go through. Most conversations eventually get into a " What sort of work do you do?" phase and that's your chance to tell others about yourself.

Naturally you also have to show a real interest in the people you talk with and take the time to hear their story. Listen carefully and you'll always learn something. Ask additional questions if you think there's more to learn; some people only tell part of their story and wait until they're encouraged before they say anything else.

Help whenever you can
Helping others will always be a good way to help your own business. If your conversations indicate that you can be of some assistance to the person you're talking with it's an opportunity to get to know them better. This extends to those you're already doing business with. Get to know them and their needs better by talking with them. You might have a solution to their biggest business problem and can make a friend for life!

Share your expertise
Whatever business you're in, you're an expert. Think about it. You know more about what you do in business than anybody else that isn't in the same business. If you can make up an interesting presentation about what you do, others will gladly listen.

Contact local organisations and offer your services as a guest speaker. It's easiest to begin with any that you're already a member of and go from there. One or two practice sessions and you'll come across like a polished presenter. Then you can expand outwards to speaking in front of other groups, meeting lots of new people in the process.

When it clicks, personal marketing places you in a one-on-one situation with a prospective customer who shares many of the same concerns about running a business that you have. If you can be informative, interested and helpful you'll find your business growing and possibly make new friends at the same time.


An Important Message
While every effort has been made to provide valuable, useful information in this publication, this firm and any related suppliers or associated companies accept no responsibility or any form of liability from reliance upon or use of its contents. Any suggestions should be considered carefully within your own particular circumstances, as they are intended as general information only.

Terms of Use All rights to the content in this publication are reserved by Thexton Armstrong Pty Ltd. Any use of the content outside of this format must acknowledge Thexton Armstrong Pty Ltd as the original source.


 

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