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How to manage underperforming team members

September 30, 2020 -  By
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Talk bubbles (Photo: arthobbit / iStock / Getty Images)

Photo: arthobbit/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

At Grow! 2020 in Charlotte last February, Loving President Mike Haynes pointed out that the majority of people don’t come into work in the morning wanting to do a bad job that day. Most people, in fact, strive to do good work. But, sometimes their efforts fall short, and you as a manager have to address the issue. How do you do it in a way that helps them, and inspires them, to get better?

Years ago, when I was a much younger manager, I would see something I didn’t like on a job site, get worked up and often launch into a tirade, asking my team What in the world are you doing? Where did you learn that? I was a bit of a jerk, plain and simple.

As I’ve matured, I’ve realized that this way of managing people doesn’t work. When we get angry our teams tend to focus only on our ire, not the cause of it and not what they can do better next time.

Instead of thinking, “Wow, I really should’ve paid more attention to how I was installing those boulders,” they think “Wow, Marty completely lost his temper this morning. I’m not sure I want to keep working for a boss with such a short fuse.”

Getting worked up doesn’t help us as leaders, and it certainly doesn’t inspire our teams to improve.

Giving meaningful, constructive feedback begins with staying calm. If you can’t stay calm, then you need to walk away and come back when you can control your emotions better.

If you can remain calm, address the issue then and there on the job site by asking the team member to come and stand alongside you. Then ask them what they see that could be better and what steps they would take to make it so. Often, you’ll find your team members are able to spot the issue themselves, and then you can discuss the best way to fix it. Approaching mistakes and underperformance this way helps team members learn and grow and trains them to notice and address problems on their own. It empowers them, and it motivates them to continually improve.

So, the next time you see work that’s not up to snuff, take a step back and a deep breath. The most successful leaders stay calm and cool despite whatever challenges come their way, and work with their teams to find a path forward together.

If you want to go behind the scenes of Grunder Landscaping Co. and see how we manage and motivate our team to succeed, join us for our next in-person Fall Field Trip in Dayton, Ohio, on October 28–29. Learn more here.

Marty Grunder

About the Author:

Marty Grunder is president and CEO of Grunder Landscaping Co. and The Grow Group, based in Dayton, Ohio.

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