In today’s Sales Insight blog post, I want to talk about dealing with poor performance.
My first and most important piece of advice is to ensure that you do actually deal with it. In my experience, sales managers too often try to avoid the difficult conversations but, over time, this only serves to make the situation become more uncomfortable for both parties.
Use the three box challenge to identify your high and low performers
One of the exercises I like to get sales leaders to do is the three box challenge, where you categorise your team into the following groups:
- Role Models – the high flyers in your team who are getting the results and doing it in the right way.
- Average Performers – those who, with the right kind of support and development, could become high performers in the future.
- Low Performers – the people on your team who you don’t feel will make it based on their current performance.
Of course, the vast majority of leaders do have a percentage of their team who they class as Low Performers, at which point I would have to ask why those people are being allowing to exist in that state; they are potentially anchoring the entire team’s performance.
Take a look at your own leadership style
Another suggestion is to take a look at yourself in terms of your leadership style. In his book Hundred Percenters, Mark Murphy identifies the “two most important differentiating factors in separating exceptional from average leaders” as:
- Challenge – the extent to which a leader challenges their people.
- Emotional Connection – the degree of emotional connection that leaders build with their people.
Those leaders who are reaching 100% success rates are typically those who deliver a high level of challenge and who have that high level of emotional connection with their team as well.
Pre-empt poor performance to improve your team
We can actually pre-empt poor performance by being more effective, not just in our initial coaching, but by delivering performance coaching.
As part of this process I’d recommend telling your team where they stand today, what their performance levels are like (honestly), and work out what their business and personal goals look like over a period of time.
It would be lovely to think there was a linear progression of performance improvement over time but, as we know, this isn’t the reality. Performance has peaks and troughs, so if we can help coach people thorough this by dealing with any signs of low performance early on, we’re able to correct any issues with the individual before they become a major problem.
Competence vs commitment
Another important element of performance improvement lies in understanding whether the individual’s current state is a result of a competence issue, or a commitment issue, or perhaps a bit of both.
Once this has been determined, we can change our style accordingly, so as to ensure maximum positive impact on the individual’s performance.
For example, if someone has low competence but they are highly committed, our approach would be to guide them to additional learning and development opportunities, to allow their competency to rise.
If, however, someone in your team is considered to be on the low commitment spectrum, it might be that they’re in the wrong role, particularly if they’re also low in competence as well. Of course, reasons for low commitment should first be established, as this can be due to issues in the team, or wider organisation. However, in many instances, we would want to coach those individuals into a different role, either within or outside the organisation.
Divergent and convergent thinking
Another useful process, to help individuals think through what could potentially help their own performance, is to employ Divergent and Convergent Thinking:
Divergent Thinking – Think big about all the options you have.
Convergent Thinking – Break it down into specific actions that both parties are in agreement with.
Put an end to the blame culture
The final thing I would like to look at is accountability. Whilst it is the responsibility of the sales manager to support and coach, it is the responsibility of the individual to actually address their own low performance.
What we sometimes get is a blame game going on, with below the line behaviour. This might manifest itself as people:
- ignoring or denying there’s an issue
- covering their tails
- finger pointing
- employing a wait and see attitude
- feigning confusion
- using terms such as “tell me what to do” or “it’s not my job”
We need to break through these blaming activities and make sure the individual is clear on; what options they’ve got, that they’ve chosen them and that they are therefore responsible for delivering them.
If you’d like to chat about this topic in more detail then please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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