Don’t beg your poor performers to stay.
Sam was milking the system. She’d been working at the same practice for seven years—after her mom became a patient of Dr. Williams. All the doctors in the practice had worked with her and now they saw a change in her behavior.
First, Bill sat her down and listened to her excuses. Then Jim had a conversation and heard new ones. Camille, the office manager, was totally frustrated by conversations three and four, but no one seemed to know what to do. But it was obvious her actions were infecting the entire practice.
Sam was now showing up late and often calling in sick. True, her actual work wasn’t raising any red flags, but she was clearly a poor performer.
Given her length of service, she had become a fixture in the office and many patients adored her (except the handful now making complaints).
It wasn’t until Camille returned from a coaching seminar that an answer arrived. She shared a presentation she’d attended that suggested they should consider using less restraint in sharing their concerns. She’d heard a speaker explain that “when you spend more time with problem employees than others, it trains all the team members. They learn that to get your attention, they need to mess up.”
Camille’s ears perked up at that. Then the speaker said: “It’s as if you’re begging the bad ones to stay.” Were they?
A family affair
The chiropractic industry is rife with tales about not wanting to let a once-valued team member go. Few chiropractors escape the problem of having to ask “what do I do now” when a veteran team member’s performance is suffering—especially when that person is a family member or a close personal friend. Yet the solution is simple (although not always easy because it involves improving your coaching).
Rather than begging the poor performer to stay, sometimes the secret is in what else you say. A number of approaches can help you be a better guide.
Give real feedback
You want to be nice and give the person a chance, but this can turn into a delicate dance. Bad habits of letting things go tend to form over time and, before you know it, the poor-performing employee is getting away with murder.
Maybe you don’t have time to lay down the law or you’re not the confrontational type, but when your feedback is too subtle or vague, your coaching efforts are bound to fail.
Sports coaches yell at their players and give them tough love, cutting underperformers from the team.
Life coaches tell us the tough stuff and still share their shoulder, while helping us learn even when we’re red in the face. Your employees deserve to hear relevant feedback.
If they have to stop coming into work late, say so. If they no longer possess the competency to do the job you gave them to do, then teach them how to do something new.
Your responsibility as a leader is not to be a doormat but rather a valued guide. To do this, deliver an undiluted message.
Be crystal clear
Will Rogers said that “Common sense ain’t common.” Maybe those you work with have it, but chances are your explanations need to cover things you think they already know.
Share plainly what you mean and what change in their behavior, attitude, or action you want to see. Dancing around an issue doesn’t do them any good.
As a mentor, your goal is to teach an employee new skills to accomplish a number of tasks. And if you take this position seriously, then that person needs to fully understand you.
“Clarity” means more than employees simply comprehending what you say. Have them reflect on their interpretation of your directions. Invite them to commit to new action. Confirm that they understand how your request impacts their next move and that what you’re asking them to do makes sense for the practice.
In your discussions with chiropractic colleagues, you’ve probably heard the phrase: “I’m leaning toward letting them go.” There comes a point when you have to stop leaning and make a move.
If you don’t act decisively, your other employees will get the impression they can get away with anything; and the more you lean, the more proof you’ll give them. Keep good notes. When the time comes, you’ll want to act on more than vague feelings.
Being decisive and disciplined about who makes the cut for your team is about taking a stand. Good coaches also know when it’s time to show employees what happens when their advice is ignored.
Rules to live by
Leaders who have only one team member tend to form friendships instead of associate relationships. Those with more team members find it easier to see the value of making a distinction. In either case, you have a business to run and whether your team is large or small, being a good manager will keep you from always having to chase a poor performer.
Don’t get trapped in performance or employment issues that feel like a mess. Manage your business like you manage your claims. Complete the paperwork, follow a clear process, communicate when items are not filed, and be decisive in your actions.
The longer you wait to address a problem with someone like Sam, the more you set a precedent for future offenders. As tough as it might be, stop begging someone who’s a problem to stay and make room for a star performer instead.
Monica Wofford, CSP, is the CEO of Contagious Companies, an Orlando, Florida-based training and consulting firm and a consultant in the chiropractic industry. She works with chiropractic practices, healthcare, retail, hospitality, and government industry leaders to develop their leadership skills. She can be contacted about training, coaching, or consulting at 866-382-0121 or through contagiouscompanies.com