Leadership in Action – 3 Questions When Goals are Not Met

man wearing gray polo shirt beside dry-erase board

Last week, we covered goals that were met, or nearly met. This week, we address the situation where a team member is not achieving their goals at all. There are three questions, for your review, that provide context and a plan forward for your meeting with this team member.

1 – Is this a pattern of performance?
A pattern is important to establish, as it can help determine if the poor performance was an anomaly. For many organizations, COVID-19 provided a shift in the marketplace that may have had a negative impact on the ability to achieve goals during the year. It is important to hold your team accountable for what they can control. If this lack of performance is an anomaly, you want to address it in the review as such. This is not about removing accountability for their performance. Rather, the focus is on where their effort is making a difference, and bringing up past success is the expectation for going forward.

If it is a pattern of performance, you need to address it as a pattern and set up a performance plan. If that plan is already in place, then follow through on the plan.

2 – What has this team member accomplished?
While we have established that they have not achieved their goals, the question of what they have achieved helps you to look at where they have been spending their time. Have they been putting in an honest effort, or have they been phoning it in? If they are putting in an honest effort, then you want to look at where they have been successful and how can you coach them to increase the frequency of that success. If they have the right attitude, but not the right skills, it leads you to Question 3 below.

If they have been phoning it in, and not putting forth the effort you would expect, then a performance plan needs to be established. Also, be honest. Did it look this way in the first 90 days? As a leader, this is how we take accountability for our team members’ success.

3 – Do they fit better in another spot within the organization?
This is a serious question. It’s not one that should be used to pass on a poor performer to another department because you are not willing to make the tough decision. If your team member has been with the organization for a while, have they been successful in other positions? Did this person get promoted too fast? Were they set up for success? This past success possibility means you want to have an honest conversation with them. Perhaps this position is not right for them, and another spot would be better for them and the organization.

If they do not seem to have had success in the past, perhaps you received them on your team because others did not make that tough decision. In that case, it is time to have the tough conversation.

It is never easy to have the tough conversations with team members who are not performing. Using the above three questions, to set the context for your conversation, is a good start. As you work to Nurture Growth, this becomes a learning opportunity for your team member, either for next time inside the organization or outside.