The ABC’S of Inconsistent Employee Performance

If you have ever led a team or run an organization, you have likely experienced a moment of frustration when one, two, or perhaps most of your people weren’t doing what you wanted them to do. In those instances, I imagine that questions similar to these ran through your mind as you considered your team members. Feel free to insert the names of team members you know:

  • Why won’t [INSERT NAME HERE] do what I asked him to do? We have discussed it multiple times.
  • Why did [INSERT NAME HERE] do it right for awhile and then fall back into her old ways?
  • Why is [INSERT NAME HERE] having such a hard time learning how to do this?
  • Why is [INSERT NAME HERE] ‘all in’ some days and ‘checked out’ other days?

Ensuring employees repeatedly deliver desired results is tough. Inconsistent performance to established standards is an epidemic in most organizations. Harder yet is employees embracing new behaviors to drive better results. Let’s face it. It’s hard enough to change your own behavior, but changing the behavior of someone else, or an entire team of people, can seem darn near impossible.

If you find your people aren’t doing what you want them to do, I contend that they are falling prey to what I call the ABCs of employee behavior. I’m not trying to be overly simplistic here, but if you consider the reason(s) someone isn’t doing something the answer will typically fall into one or more of these areas:

A – Attitude: People aren’t motivated to do it.

Getting a paycheck alone isn’t motivation enough, especially in a world of expanding choices. Your people need to want it as much as you want it.

Consider these questions:

  1. Why does this matter to my people?
  2. What is the bigger win for them if we make this happen?
  3. Do I have their backs and hands only, or their minds and hearts too?

B – Big Picture: People don’t know what needs to be done.

Your people need to understand what exactly it is you are trying to achieve. They need to understand how their effort fits into a bigger goal.

Consider these questions:

  1. How exactly are we going to measure success?
  2. If we accomplish this at my level, how does it impact the organization?

C – Capabilities: People don’t have the skills to make it happen.

Being motivated to do something is important, as is understanding what the team is trying to accomplish; however, at some point people need to be able deliver the goods. They need to know ‘how’ to do whatever it is.

Consider these questions:

  1. What does each person need to do to ensure success?
  2. How do we make sure we are properly trained to do the work?
  3. What gaps within our team exist that we need to close?

S – Systems: People aren’t always operating in a system that consistently supports the right behaviors.

While the first three are the responsibility of both leaders and team members, this one falls squarely on the shoulders of the leader. Employees work within systems, but leaders work on systems.

Consider these questions:

  1. Do the systems you and your organization have in place help people deliver results?
  2. Are your systems causing people to jump through unnecessary hoops, creating frivolous roadblocks, or zapping the very energy out of each and every one of your team members?

I wish you all the best as you look to address some consistent causes of inconsistent performance.


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