The typical hands-off manager basically avoids performance
problems until they can no longer be ignored. But problems always come up. And
by the time a problem can no longer be avoided, the dreaded confrontation is
Without regular daily or weekly management conversations with a
strong focus, the manager has no natural venue in which to provide the employee
with regular evaluation and feedback - good, bad, or neutral. Instead of
regular and consistent “problem solving,” which is a good thing, dealing with
problems becomes a difficult conversation to be avoided.
By the time most “performance improvement” conversations actually
take place, it's usually too late for the manager to be very effective. For one
thing, solving a problem after it has already festered and grown large is so
much more difficult than preventing that problem in the first place, or solving
it while it was smaller. On top of all that, employees often feel attacked when
they are confronted with a negative assessment of their behavior.
Do you want to be great at solving employee performance problems?
If you are talking with employees about the details of their work on a regular
basis, then talking about small problems - whatever they may be - should be
something you do as a matter of course. Anticipate and avoid and solve one
small problem after another as a regular part of your regular ongoing dialogue
with each employee.
In the course of regular guidance and direction, zeroing in on
one small problem after another is what ongoing continuous performance
improvement actually looks like. In most cases, even long-standing problems
will die away under the withering medicine of regular and consistent strong
This approach sends a message that high performance is the only
option, that details matter, and that you are paying close attention. You are
also doing the employee a favor by making him or her aware of the small problem
so that he or she can fix it or avoid it in the future. Over time, you are
doing your employees the added favor of helping them become more detail