You hired them and they were full of promise. You could see their potential and looked forward to them starting. It all began well, they were enthusiastic, hard working, successful. But that was then.
Now, that same person is making mistakes. Missing out on deals. Arriving late and leaving early. And what is worse is that they are bringing the team down.
How do you get them back on track? Follow these ten steps, grounded in mindfulness and the science of how the human brain works, to have the best chance of success.
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1. Take the time
Recognise that these things take time, and frame up in your mind that this may take 3 or 4 months. You must start, and then you must continue. Make this a priority for this quarter, not just this week. Frame this up as a three month exercise and your once-star employee has room to breathe and space to improve.
2. Don't ignore it
The worse thing you can do is, do nothing. Because doing nothing actually means eventually reaching breaking point and cracking. This is when you get in trouble for saying something unwise and making things worse than better.
3. Assume competence
When you talk to your employee, assume that they have everything they need to improve. When you hired them, you saw the potential, remind yourself of this and rekindle it. Whatever has happened, if they are to succeed it's vital that you believe in them.
The worse thing you can do is, do nothing.
4. Set the scene
It's vital that you bring the issue to their attention. After all, before they can change there must be an acknowledgement for the need to change. And secondly they must have a desire to make the change. You can achieve this by explaining to them what your observations have been. Be clear, honest and kind. And explain why it is important that they change. This might dovetail with their desired career growth. Or it might be more serious, that they may miss out on opportunities if they don't improve.
5. Ask them what is going on
If someone has started out well and now things aren't so rosy, there will be a reason for it. Ask them what is going on. Say that when they started, you saw their enthusiasm, their passion, their success. Say you've noticed a change. Ask what is going on. Be curious and non-judgmental.
6. Listen with curiosity in place of judgment
Now for the hard bit. Listen. I mean, really listen. I mean quietening the voice in your head. Quietening the judgment. Remember that you are fully expecting them to turn this around. This is your chance to really hear what has been going on.
Listen with your ears, your eyes, your heart. Listen between the lines - what are they not saying. Listen for the emotion behind the message. And be ready that the answer may be something with your leadership style. Or someone else in the team. Or in the work environment. The important thing here is to take it in and just listen. Non-judgmentally.
Test your understanding with them. "I heard you say....". Or "I hear that you are feeling .......... because ........". I sense your .........". Either they will agree with you and you will know you got it. Or they will correct you. Either way, you get a clear picture of what the real message is.
Listen with curiosity and not with judgement.
7. Coach them
Coaching essentially means encouraging people to solve their own problems. And to do so in an asking vs telling type of way. So, from the information you get from above, ask them some questions like:
The key here is to get them to come up with solutions for themselves. This will have more chance of success than suggesting your own solutions. If you have a solution that you want to table, tell them you have an idea you'd like to share. It's important to extend the spirit of curiosity here too. You may have ideas, table them, but be prepared that their ideas will be better. They may have points of view, respect these, and also ask them to try on another point of view for size.
8. Make a plan
It is important to take the energy from this co-creation session above and make it into a workable plan. Have pen and paper on hand, and offer it to them to take notes. It is important it is them writing this down and not you on their behalf. Talk about how you can support them in making this happen. This might be in mentoring, coaching, development budget or holding them accountable.
Get your calendar out then and there in the meeting and schedule in follow ups. Get specific.
The key is to get them to come up with solutions for themselves.
9. Follow up
Like I said up front, this is a 3-4 month process and this is only the first step. Set regular catchups to track progress against the goal. Again, be curious, assume competence to make the required changes, and offer your support. The key to success is in the follow up. So don't let them slide.
10. Celebrate success
After three months when you sit back and reflect on the journey that you have been on, celebrate. Celebrate that your once-star employee has turned around. Celebrate the deeper relationship you have with them through this process. Celebrate your new found skills in listening and cultivating a curious mindset.
Celebrate your new mastery in this important part of leadership.