What to Do With Struggling Employees - Blog Post


What to Do With Struggling Employees


There is an old saying about a turtle on a fence post: It didn’t get up there by itself, and it doesn’t know what to do once it is there.

As an executive leadership coach, I am often asked to assist with leaders who are like said turtle.

Their boss is frustrated and doesn’t know if they can manage to improve this person even slightly.

Another phrase I often hear is, “They just don’t get it.”

At this point in the inquiry, I am compelled to ask, “Have you told them what you just told me?”

In essence, I am asking if the turtle has been given any direct feedback as it struggles to find a way off the post.

You can guess the answer I typically hear.

Somewhere between “Not exactly,” and “Sort of.” Everything but a direct “Yes,” or “No.”

Of course they are struggling!

That person has rarely, if ever, been given direct feedback about what he or she should start doing or what he or she should stop doing.

That person has not been told what is hurting his or her performance and what is helping his or her performance.

The good news is this situation can be shifted quickly.

First, if you are the boss and a key leader on your team is struggling, grab the reigns and offer them the key feedback they need.

If you are uncertain about how to give feedback, you can listen to my free webinar on the topic.

But let’s say that you are the turtle, and that you have a sense that you are struggling. (Most of us know when we are sitting on a fence post because it isn’t all that comfortable.)

You can take responsibility for climbing down by doing one specific thing: asking for feedback.

Don’t wait for someone to create a process for you, or wait for your boss to overcome his or her aversion to conflict. Open the door by being the first to walk through it.

The simplest process I know for getting quick feedback is to start with these three questions:

  • What should I continue doing that is going well?
  • What should I stop doing?
  • What should I start doing?

I  like these questions because they keep the changes tied to specific behaviors, which makes it feel less personal and more transactional.

If you are the boss, use these questions as the primer to giving feedback. And get that turtle off the fence post!

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