Managers, Ask Yourselves – Is It Me or Is It You?

Most managers, if asked to come up with an example of an employee who has an “unfixable” problem with performance, are usually able to name at least one person on their team. But managers should really be taking the time to ask themselves a much more important question: is this employee’s performance problem about them or is it about me?

The vast majority of managers do their “managing” more or less on autopilot until something goes wrong – and something always does. Then communication becomes more heated and urgent, sometimes even more accurate and effective! Managers almost always get most thoroughly involved when there are problems to address – large, medium, or small.

In my work at RainmakerThinking, I’ve found that very few managers are acing it. Too many are failing. The vast majority go through the motions, but not very well. This is what I call the undermanagement epidemic.

If you, the manager, are not spending time engaging in ongoing, structured, one-on-one dialogues with each employee …?

It turns out that the vast majority of performance problems, roughly nine out of ten of the most common ones, can be easily solved once a manager commits to a program of high-structure, high-substance guidance, direction, support, and coaching. Think about it: if you, the manager, are not spending time engaging in ongoing, structured, one-on-one dialogues with each employee, then how can you ever really know what they’re capable of?

But here’s the thing: most managers are trying. Most managers do communicate plenty. And on the surface, it often looks like they are practicing the fundamentals of Management 101. But in the vast majority of cases their management communication is severely lacking in both structure and substance. So, the motions they are going through don’t accomplish very much. And they don’t realize it.

Far too often I’ve seen employees deemed “stubborn low performers” by managers who refuse to provide them with the feedback and support they need to do their best. Then, because they’re considered low performers, they’re given even less of the manager’s already infrequent management time. On the flip side, I’ve also seen plenty of “promising new hires” left to their own devices by a hands-off manager, only to fall into a downward spiral of performance as a result, leaving people wondering what made them seem so promising in the first place.

I’m willing to bet this is not the way you want your team members to be treated in your restaurant.

… then how can you ever really know what they’re capable of?

If you are somebody’s manager, then you have power over that person’s livelihood and career, their ability to add value, and their ability to earn – this is how people put food on their tables. They are working to make a living and take care of themselves and their families. If you are that person’s boss, that is a profound responsibility. The least you can do is the fundamentals.

If there is an “unfixable” employee that comes to your mind, ask yourself: am I really providing that person with the guidance, direction, support, and coaching they deserve? Am I engaging in ongoing, structured one-on-one dialogues with that person?

Rather than focusing on what they could be doing differently, what more could you be doing to help them succeed?