I’ve dealt with a situation just like this very recently. There was an employee that was fantastic at his job, he worked really hard, brought in loads of revenue but and it’s a big but, the other staff were annoyed by his bad habits.
The superstar employee wouldn’t clean up after himself, leaving others to do it. He didn’t like paper work, which meant the support staff had to do it for him. He reluctantly acknowledged people, grunted rather than spoke, never said thank you to the staff that helped him get things done, that sort of thing.
The way he saw things was that he was there just to do his job and he knew he was really good at it.
Meanwhile the Owner was spending time and energy deflecting staff complaints and reminding staff that the superstar employee was really valuable to the business.
The Owner tried many times to ask the employee to lift his performance in the other areas. The employee listened and promptly forgot the conversation.
The Owner was reluctant to push things with the superstar employee, he didn’t want the superstar to leave or get upset.
As the situation continued unresolved, the Owner was feeling just as disrespected as the other staff did.
What did we do? And let me give you a hint – it worked for everyone.
The first thing I did was to ask the Owner to have big think about everything that goes into the role the superstar was undertaking.
As with most managers, the Owner was easily able to identify all the task-based work, the sort of things written into a position description. I call it the “what people do”.
When I asked the Owner to list the attitudes and behaviours that the employee needed to be successful in the role, it got much more difficult. I call this the “how people do their job”. Most of us struggle to think of performance in terms of attitudes and behaviours.
It’s so much easier to judge performance based on what staff do, but it’s a really a half measure of performance. We need to consider how people should behave to be successful in the role and make them accountable for achieving those expectations too.
Traits like being focused, supportive, energetic, resilient are some examples of behavioural expectations. And, they are so very important because the attitudes and behaviours drive the results we get.
The Owner and I listed the attitudes and behaviours we wanted to see from the superstar and how they could demonstrate those.
Identifying behavioural expectations becomes easier with practice; so don’t give up too soon.
My purpose in doing exercise with the Owner was to shift their thinking to total overall performance rather than just one aspect, which was the financial return.
The overall performance picture showed the Owner that the superstar’s behaviours were actually costing the business money in other areas such as wasted time and effort for those working with him.
The second step we took was to map out a plan on how to communicate these new expectations to the superstar. Too much change, too fast would certainly feel overwhelming and punishing to the employee. Better to go with baby steps. We decided to talk to the employee about the easiest changes and work up to the harder ones over time.
Getting people to change is very hard and this might make you think that there is nothing that can really be done when you experience an employee with attitude issues.
The truth is that we are not trying to change anyone. We are aligning their behaviour with our expected outcomes. Just like a tennis coach pointing out to a player that behaviour like grunting can reduce the focus on their shot.
And here’s a little known secret to why this works so well. Employees want you to tell them what you want from them – clearly. They want to be successful for you.
Employers can too readily fall into the trap of thinking that things are common sense or staff should just know.
In my experience, people are a little more complicated than that. If you want great performance across the team, it’s time to think about meeting people where they are at not where you wish they would be. And that means ensuring you both have a clear understanding of all of your expectations.
Still not convinced, I recently worked with an Owner to improve behaviours and attitudes in a small team that were very skilled in their jobs. The result was that the business had their best financial quarter since they started 15 years ago. This stuff just works.
Some exciting news
The Queensland Government is opening a fantastic small business grant program at the end of June. It only opens for 4 weeks so you’ll need to act fast.
The program offers matched funding up to $5000 to work with me on strategy, coaching and consultancy work. And, no need to worry about the grant writing process, I can get help do this for a small fee.
If you’ve got and ABN, less than 20 staff and are based In Queensland and you want one on one leadership support and coaching or staff problem solving or a better staff strategy or even staff training – there will never be a better opportunity.
This grant can be to help establish or develop your business.
Let’s get your business having it’s best quarter ever too.
Email me if you would like more information: firstname.lastname@example.org
Next week question
I’ll be talking engagement and retention of staff. The question I received is: How do I keep great staff when I’ve got no money for pay increases?
All the best
Human Resources & Leadership Strategist
I solve workplace issues quickly and positively and I coach leaders to do the same