Under-performing: Why your front-office team is struggling and how to get them out of a rut

“No matter what I do or how many conversations we have, nothing seems to change. Or they get better for a while and then it drops again. I don’t want to fire them, but they aren’t leaving me with many options – what can I do?”

Sound familiar?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this from frustrated managers, heads of department, leaders on the exec team – anyone with a people management hat on.

By this point, they’re at their wits end – they’ve tried everything to help their team member improve, and they just can’t seem to make anything stick.

They’ve been over and over and OVER with them the right things to do… so why don’t they just DO IT?!

I get it, and it’s really common – and mainly because, across the board, we’ve got a bit stagnant with our view on performance reviews and improvement plans.

To help you, I aim to lay out a few key reasons as to why they’re REALLY struggling in this article, and what you can do about it…

Persistence vs Perspective

Let’s get the practical piece out of the way first – and this might be a difficult question to ask yourself:

“Do you know for sure that what you’re telling them is the “right” thing to do?”

Stay with me a minute…

I’ve worked with plenty of businesses that have got a great team, they’ve got solid clients on the books, but they’ve predominantly come from referrals and networking or events… not lead generation.

And when I’ve asked about lead generation, the department head will usually say that they “get” sales and marketing, but they just haven’t seen success.

And they think that the key ingredient that’s missing is there’s not enough effort being put in.

Now sometimes, that’s true – but not all the time.

If you want to win NEW new business, but you’ve never successfully done that, then maybe the actions suggested aren’t the right ones.

If you’ve set this team bigger targets than ever before, do they need new tactics to get them there?

Sometimes, persistence isn’t the only thing you need.

Because if you persist at something that doesn’t work, it will look like an underperforming, frustrated, demoralised team member.

Persistence is important in sales and marketing – but knowing when a new perspective on tactics is needed is a different thing entirely.

So take the time to step back and look at what you’re really asking of them – is there a knowledge gap that you/they don’t know exists?

The root cause

Now we’ve got that one out of the way, we’ll cover the real elephant in the room.

Because most performance issues stem from a much bigger root cause that’s all to do with mindset.

It’s so easy to get lost in the spreadsheets – the numbers in red rather than green, or the line on a graph going down when you want it to go up.

But all of those results start in the mind.

Every single behaviour, action and result that we have in the wider world comes from a set of thought patterns first.

So if you don’t tackle the neural network, you won’t fix anything.

All the “telling” them in the world just won’t work – because you’re focusing on the wrong problem.

Adopting a coaching approach to your performance sessions with them is really important to discovering the real issue.

Three performance archetypes

So now we know we need to adopt more of a coaching mentality with our team – how do you know which approach to take?

Everyone’s different, right? And “underperforming” might mean different things to different team members.

I’ve come up with three common archetypes to help you pinpoint potential issues…

  • The Good – in a word, high-performers. They’re the ones who go above and beyond by default. You can always rely on them… until they break. High-performers are at the highest risk of burnout and frequently suffer the most with imposter syndrome because they’re always challenging themselves.
  • The Bad – these are the people who are under-performing against targets. They’re the ones who struggle to meet deadlines or targets, and a strong sign you’ve got one on your team is if they struggle with time management or procrastination (which is actually a stress response).
  • The Ugly – if left for long enough, either of the two above archetypes can turn into this one. These poor souls are just on the brink of burnout, totally overwhelmed, and can’t seem to get a grip on things. Worse, they may go on the sick at any minute – and you just don’t know how to help them.

Usually when I’m delivering a session on this and I mention these archetypes, attendees instantly get an idea of where their team starts to fit.

The archetype of whoever you’re trying to support right now doesn’t matter – the core takeaway here is that you adopt a flexible approach to them depending on their susceptibilities and thought patterns, if you want long-term positive change.

So, now what?

This can be a lot to take in – after all, we’re managers, not trained psychologists!

What can you do about it? Essentially, you need to understand which archetypes exist on your team and the right strategy to take that will get the most out of them – without it, and perspective on your tactics, your persistence with sales and marketing activity won’t pay off.

If you’re ready to really help your team, head over to my free training video to get started.

It provides a deep dive into these three archetypes so you understand how to approach them, and will give you that new performance review structure, so you can have those conversations with confidence and start seeing results.

Delivered by:
Caroline Canty

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