What do you do if your Team is Underperforming? Part 5 – Celebration; Performance Management and Capability

CelebrationIt’s time to complete the picture. Having now addressed Leading from the Front; Creating Urgency for Change; Re-Aligning Focus; Training and Education; Ongoing Coaching; Performance Measurement; and Reward & Recognition, I now to turn your attention to three final elements of the Performance equation – Celebration, Performance Management and Individual Capability…



Celebrating SuccessAll too often when financial indicators show that results are finally heading in the right direction, leaders of teams or companies turn their attention to other issues and forget about what it took for their people to change course and re-direct their energies towards more fruitful activities. As I said in my previous blog, in order for lasting and impactful change to occur you must continue to reward the behaviour you want. Now that of course includes both individual and team reward and recognition, but there is one more element that if it is introduced at the appropriate times, you can potentially fast-track your culture to consistent achievement, and that is the element of fun and celebration. Celebration can take many forms, from as small as high fives amongst a close-knit team when a big result comes in, to a major themed event involving the whole organisation. It gives people a chance to say to themselves… “I am part of something special here, and there is no other place I would rather be.”

Southwest Airlines

Southwest AirlinesI had the good fortune to witness this in action first hand during the nineties as part of my world class best practice study tours when I led different groups of senior executives on six occasions over a number of years to the headquarters of the iconic Southwest Airlines under the then leadership of CEO, Herb Kelliher. Southwest Airlines has consistently led its industry year-in, year-out in all of the benchmarks that matter… Best On-Time Performance; Fewest Customer Complaints; Best Baggage Handling; Most Admired Company; Best Employer; One of USA’s safest airlines with the newest fleet; and 30 years of profitability to round out the score, in an industry littered with financial under-performance and failure. Not coincidentally, Southwest’s culture was built around positively outrageous service; pride in performance; spirit of love; (or “LUV” as is their call-sign) and fun. I can honestly say that over the years, every single visit to the headquarters of Southwest Airlines at Love Field in Dallas meant a day filled with awe and outright enjoyment for me and my tour colleagues. That place encapsulated the essence of having fun at work, and finding reasons to celebrate life as part of their work. NutsThe stories are too numerous for me to share here but if you want to know more I recommend that you get a hold of the wonderful book about the airline, “Nuts” by Kevin and Jackie Freiberg.

Today, it is hard to go past the exploits of none other than Sir Richard Branson of Virgin. Here is a leader who has brought that sense of fun, adventure and celebration to the lives of his legion of followers and staff across the globe. And to know that Richard Branson is personally a very shy individual, goes to show that this aspect of leadership is possible for anyone to demonstrate if the desire is there and the reasons genuine.

Performance Management

No matter how, well your team is travelling, there will always be the need for performance management, or correction, with different individuals at different times. It doesn’t matter whether it is performance related or behaviour related the worst thing a leader can do is ignore the problem and hope that it will go away. I have lost count of the number of times I have had to coach managers and leaders who have got themselves into hot water because they allowed an issue of poor performance or inappropriate behaviour to fester. Their final act of desperation has been to try and fudge the issue via the ‘redundancy’ route or to introduce a series of warning letters which have only one end result as a consequence, which is termination. There is a far better way, and that is to nip poor performance or inappropriate behaviour in the bud early by introducing a proper process of discussion, counselling, warning, review and documentation that encourages the recipient to change direction, and leaves no doubt as to what is expected by way of the changes needed. In most companies, the HR department is well versed in the appropriate process to follow, and it is every manager’s responsibility to fully acquaint him/herself with the proper due process and follow it. For those smaller businesses which do not have an HR department, it is the CEO’s responsibility to source the appropriate information from their industry advisory council or the appropriate government department advice line, and to ensure that all members of the leadership team are fully conversant with their responsibilities under IR law. With all the available sources of information on line, there is no excuse for poor performance management practices.

While I do not put this forward as the prescriptive action to take in this area, one set of steps I have found as a useful reminder of how to support changes in actions or behaviours is the “Five F’s” formula:-

Facts – List only the observable facts as you know them to the individual to whom you are giving feedback. (Stay away from making judgments, assumptions or interpretations of the behaviour – just list the observable facts.)

Feelings – Mention how you feel personally about the actions or behaviours you are describing. (i.e. “Own” your feelings about the issue so that the individual is left in no doubt about how you feel as a result.)

Findings – Ask the individual what their ‘take’ on the issue is and listen without interruption until they have finished.

Future – Explain clearly the change in behaviour or action you wish them to take from this point on and the belief you have in them being able to undergo the changes needed (and offer further coaching or training and encouragement if it is a performance issue).

Follow Up – Schedule and diarise a follow up meeting to be held at an appropriate time in the future (say 3-4 weeks) when you can review the performance or changes in behaviour with the individual. (This is a time to recognise and reinforce the improvement made or to proceed to the next level of performance management and review if necessary.)

Of course depending on the nature and the seriousness of the performance or behaviour being addressed, there is also the opportunity for the introduction of independent management and employee representation and documentation if appropriate to the circumstances.

Individual Capability

Finally to complete the picture of effective performance management, one has to also address the aspect of personal capability. i.e. The unconscious attitudes and motivations of the individual involved. There is a risk that some of those chosen to perform in a particular role are unsuited to the task regardless of the level or amount of training and coaching they receive. In other words ‘square pegs in round holes.’  Square Pegs in Round HolesTo continue to work with them and attempt to develop and correct them serves neither the best interests of the organisation nor the individual involved. This is where setting up a properly structured ‘Model of Excellence’ programme for replicable roles such as sales and customer service,  will assist future selection (both external or internal) and development strategies, in a far more precise and impactful way than has gone before. In other words… ‘Select for Success; Groom for Growth; and Replicate for Results.’ Since those people who may not be a good fit for the role have been selected through previous processes of hiring and internal promotion, I feel that it is incumbent upon the leaders of an organisation or a team to do whatever they can to assist those individuals to transition to a more suitable role, either internally or externally.

Phew – turning around under-performance. Not an easy subject to cover, and often one which many organisations and team leaders fail to address adequately and comprehensively. I hope that these series of five articles help you on your own journeys of leadership, and although they only skim the surface of what is a deep and multi-faceted issue, I trust that what I have covered these past five weeks has helped you to map out the territory that needs to be covered for effective and lasting change on the journey of long term, sustainable performance.

Once again here are the topics we covered prior to this article, in chronological order:–

Part 1 – What do you do if your Team is Warm and Fuzzy but Underperforming?

Part 2 – What do you do if your Team is Underperforming? – Setting the Scene

Part 3 – What do you do if your Team is Underperforming? – Creating the Structure and Support

Part 4 – What do you do if your team is Underperforming? – Measurement; Reward and Recognition

So now I hand it over to you for your comments and input into this series on performance management. As always, if you know of anyone whom you believe would benefit from these topics, please forward this on to them. Email me at brian@precisionprofiling.com.au  if you would like to dig deeper into any of these topics.

Until next time… Let’s seek to understand more and judge less. – Brian

Precision Profiling – What Makes You Tick? Through ‘Motivational Fingerprinting’ we uncover what you do, how you do it and why you do it, and most importantly, the hidden patterns that lead to your success, and that of your staff… plus – all those things that are holding you or your staff back from getting the results you truly deserve.

About Brian Clark

Brian Clark is the principal director of Precision Profiling®.

He is a renowned practitioner, writer and speaker on building total customer cultures; values driven leadership and world best practice strategy and implementation.

He has been a guest lecturer on world best practice for the executive management programme at Monash University’s business college (Mt Eliza campus); an adviser to and key note speaker for the Singapore Productivity Association and a consultant to many major Australian and overseas corporations and government departments.

Read more about Brian Clark Here


  1. Greats comments and site.

    • Cheers and thanks for your feedback. I will continue to be encouraged to share each week what I know and have learned over the years by comments like yours. – Brian

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