How To Deal With Under-Performance As A Next Generation Leader In The Family Business
Managing performance, and more specifically, being able to effectively deal with under-performance is critical to the continued growth of your family business and your success as a leader.
It keeps standards high.
It keeps the team engaged.
It drives better results.
And just as importantly, it helps you to earn the respect of the rest of the business by showing them that you’re here to get results and you’re in this senior role because you’ve earned it, not just because you’re a member of the family.
If you’re one to shy away from dealing with under-performance, don’t worry – I get it. I’ve been there.
Now you’re in a senior management position, you’re probably having to manage people who’d previously managed you for years, maybe even family members. That’s tough.
It often conjures up those incredibly useful limiting beliefs of “Why should they listen to me?”, “Who am I to give this person performance advice?”, “Are they going to respect me as a leader and not just see me as the bosses’ son or daughter?”…
Before long, we’ve convinced ourselves that the issue isn’t as bad as we first thought and there’s actually no need to do anything about it.
Deep down, we know that’s not true, but short-term, it’s far easier just to ignore it and hope it goes away.
But if left unaddressed, performance issues rarely resolve themselves and instead, things get worse until it eventually gets so bad that you realise they’ve got to go.
Then the first time you’re in a conversation talking with them about your concerns, is the same conversation in which you’re firing them.
Having been there myself on multiple occasions, I can assure you that the person on the receiving end is rarely expecting it – sometimes completely oblivious to the way they’ve been behaving and the impact it’s been having – and they definitely won’t think it’s justified.
Having to fire someone who wasn’t expecting it and doesn’t think it’s right is an incredibly awkward situation for both sides – and an argument you’re never going to win.
It provide you some reassurance that in my experience, dealing with under-performance and poor attitudes or behaviour is something that very few leaders in ANY business, let alone a family business, feel confident in and deal with can deal with properly.
But fear not, it no longer has to be this way.
In fact, it CAN’T continue to be this way if you want to be taken seriously as a leader of the family business and create a culture of high performance.
What’s The Solution?
The solution is to make sure that you have a framework for dealing with these issues.
A framework for dealing with under-performance that gives you the confidence to nip it in the bud straight away, deal with it fairly and consistently regardless of who the culprit is and gives the member of the team in question ample opportunity to see the error of their ways and step up to the plate, or remove themselves from the business of their own accord.
It’s all possible.
What’s the Framework?
The problem with under-performance – whether it’s results, attitude or behaviour – is that the longer you leave it to have a conversation, the more awkward dealing with it gets.
By avoiding addressing the situation because it makes you feel uncomfortable, you’re actually setting yourself up for a lot more discomfort later down the line – which you will NOT thank yourself for.
That’s the first thing to realise.
Secondly, the sooner you address it, the less “formal” the conversation needs to be and the more recent the event is so people’s perception and memories of what was said and what happened is much more fresh and accurate.
Your new outlook needs to be to address under-performance as soon as you become aware of it.
And usually, to begin with it doesn’t need to be anything more than a quick two minute conversation if you catch it and deal with it early.
Or, as Ken Blanchard likes to call it, give them a “re-direct”.
We all have off days and things that go on in our lives which affect our performance at work. Sometimes we just need a little nudge to get us back on track.
I’d highly recommend reading Blanchard’s “The New One Minute Manager” which gives you three simple but highly effective tools to managing performance in your team.
He suggests the best way to address these “re-directs” is in the following way:
- Deal with the behaviour/event immediately
- Confirm the facts of the event
- Express to them how you feel about the mistake and the wider impact it has on the performance of the business.
- You then take a pause to allow them to feel concerned.
- Once they’ve understood their mistakes and the ripple effect it has throughout the business, let them know that they’re better than their mistake
- Remind them that you have confidence in them and they have your support if required.
It’s all about being tough on the behaviour but being supportive of the person.
So, there’s the first framework for dealing with under-performance, poor behaviours or attitudes as soon as you see it.
Sometimes, a re-direct will be all that’s needed. It’s enough to let people know that you’re on the ball and you’re not going to tolerate under-performance.
And that right there is another key concept of being an effective and high-performance leader – it’s not about what you preach, it’s about what you tolerate. It’s no good just talking about high standards if you’re not going to hold the team account to them.
The Sit Down
If the re-direct deals with the situation effectively, which my clients often report back to me – well done you. You’ve taken accountability for your responsibilities as a leader and stopped things from getting worse and continuing to negatively impact the business.
However, if the situation doesn’t improve, I’d suggest the next step is to have a sit down with the employee in question and use the following framework, which once again is going to enable you to take any emotion out of the situation and deal with it objectively and fairly regardless of whether it’s a family member or someone in the team that used to manage you:
- Invite them to a sit-down meet
- Start off with a couple of positives
- Tell them what you’re not happy with
- Give a couple of specific examples (Pro-tip here, stick to facts and hard evidence which can’t be argued with. Bringing opinions and assumptions into the conversations will always backfire and make the conversation more difficult than it needs to be)
- Tell them the change you want to see moving forwards.
- Ask THEM to come back to you tomorrow with a plan on how they’re going to make these changes.
- Reassure them that you support them and want them to have a successful career in the business, but their destiny is now in their hands. It’s up to them to make the change.
- Book another meet in a couple of weeks’ time and tell them that if you’re not satisfied with the improvements, you’ll be moving on to a more formal procedure which could eventually see them removed from the business.
- Follow up what was discussed in an email.
- Check in to make sure they delivered on coming up with their plan the next day.
If in two weeks’ time, you’re still not happy, you can then start to take them down the disciplinary route of providing a verbal warning, first written warning, second written warning and final written warning.
I’d always advise running this past an HR specialist (as I am NOT one) before implementing it to make sure you’re not caught on the wrong side of employment law.
But it’s what I used and to great effect.
Why Does It Work
There are many benefits to having frameworks like this in your arsenal of dealing with under-performance and bad attitudes in the family business.
First of all, it strips out any emotion. You can be cool, calm and collected because essentially all you are doing is sticking to the script, dishing out the facts and asking questions. Your team will respect you much more and be far more open to sharing their problems with you compared to just going off like a bomb and letting your emotions get the better of you.
Secondly, because of that, you don’t have to worry about what they think of you as a leader. The whole conversation centers on them and they’ll probably be pretty impressed by the way you now handle these situations.
Thirdly, it puts the member of the team’s destiny firmly in their own hands and when you get this right you’ll usually find there’s two outcomes:
- The employee corrects their behaviour and becomes a valued member of the team.
- At some point along the process, they realise that they’re not right for the business and leave of their own accord.
Which means that you get a high performing team and get to keep valuable people that may have just strayed off course, people that aren’t right for the business are removed and you get to do it without ever having to fire anyone!
So, give it a try, I can assure you that it will give you far more confidence in dealing with negative situations and you’ll start to see the whole business respect you more and performance rise as everyone starts to see that you’re becoming a leader that doesn’t tolerate poor performance and isn’t afraid to tackle it head on!
Now, before you go in and start dealing with under performance like a crazed, power mad lunatic I’d like you to consider some points.
Whenever you’re not getting the results you desire as a leader in business, the first place you have to look is at yourself.
So often, I’ve seen poor performance come about as a consequence of leaders not being clear and explicit in what they expect from their team.
They “assume” that their staff know what they should be focusing on and the results that they need to strive for – but when you sit down and ask the team what “they” think is right, over 50% of the time it’s completely different to what the leadership wants.
It’s impossible to meet expectations that have not been properly set.
Don’t leave it to assumptions.
When you’re crystal clear on what you expect from your team – results, the activities that generate said results, KPI’s, regular reviews, attitudes, and behaviours. And of course, setting a great example yourself, only then can there be no excuses.
If you haven’t got that right yet, you can’t expect your people to guess what you want.
And don’t forget, performance management is not just about managing poor performance, it’s about managing great performance too.
Make sure you balance out between the two otherwise you’ll just turn your team off and be seen as a negative leader that doesn’t recognise good work.
Now It’s Your Turn
One of Alan Mulally’s key pricinples which helped turned the fortunes of Ford around in one of the worst recessions was Emotional Resilience, and you get that by having processes in place and sticking to them.
Take your emotions out of performance management and trust the process.
So if you’re ready to level up you leadership and deal with under-performance effectively, here’s step one…
Over the next month challenge yourself to provide someone in the business with a re-direct.
Obviously, for this to happen there has to be an event where someone steps out of line, but if you can go a whole month in business where that doesn’t happen – you’re either lying to yourself or not looking hard enough!
Step number two…
Bookmark this article and the next time there’s a situation that warrants more than a quick pull-to-one-side, write down the framework I’ve laid out above and take them through the framework.
I almost guarantee that you’ll be impressed with the results and your new found ability to deal with under-performance like a hero, which instantly puts you into a different category of leader.
I help next generation leaders in family run businesses to become super effective, high-performance achievers in their first senior management role.
If you’d like some help with managing poor performance, or any other aspect of becoming an effective and respected leader of the business, I provide a complimentary 1 hour Leadership Strategy Session where, together, we’ll focus on how you can become an even more powerful leader and help take your family business to new heights.
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