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Stop Promoting Poor Performance

All hospitals have underperformers. Some underperforming team members used to be superstars and have burned out. Others were hired on and never thrived. A few more just barely got by for years.

Too often managers and supervisors focus on those that are struggling and underperforming. They spend countless hours counseling and coaching those that are toxic and causing dysfunction to the team. Leaders need to focus more on amplifying the voices of the superstars. By having the majority of the focus be on helping those who are struggling leaders are telling their superstars, “I don’t have time for you.”

How much coaching around someone’s performance is too much? At what point do we move our energy away from someone who is failing to thrive and focus it on those that are thriving? As a leader it’s imperative that we follow the five fundamental steps to coaching for improvement:

1) Timing is Everything: If you start to hear that a good employee is coming in late or having a behavior problem, it needs to be addressed promptly. If you decide to wait until the next review, then you might as well say goodbye to that employee now. Address the issues within a week or less of the occurrence. Sometimes it is a failure of leadership to respond to the issue in a timely manner that has caused the employee to continue to have issues.

2) Have a Conversation: You want to address them face-to-face. This shows that you care. Do not put your concerns in an email or text. When you are talking to the employee, stick to the facts. They have started to come in late. They have received three client complaints. They have made two medical mistakes. Document the conversation.

3) Get to the Root of the Problem: Never assume why this employee is doing these things now. It is essential to ask them, “What’s going on? This is not like you. Why do you think you are arriving to work late?” If you do not ask them why they think these new behaviors are occurring, you may never get to the root of the issue. Simply telling them you have identified some concerns isn’t going to help them improve. Perhaps they are burnt out, or maybe they had a death in the family that you are not aware of. As a manager, you need to listen and figure out the why.

4) Find a Solution: Don’t tell the employee how it needs to be fixed or a timeline for resolution. Instead, ask them how they think it should be resolved. “What’s the best way for us to move forward so that we don’t have any more client complaints that involve you?” If you just dictate a solution, the employee will not be part of that solution. If they struggle to come up with solutions, then offer a few but see how they feel about the resolution you proposed. In finding a solution, you may do a deeper dive into the root of the problem.

5) Check In: Once you have created a solution and a plan, you should check-up regularly.

Ideally, you should check in once a week. You need to offer praise or suggestions for them to be able to continuously improve. “Great job coming in on time this week.” They must recognize that you are going to provide them feedback, and you are watching their progress. You want them to be successful, so ensure that you praise the times they are successful. Don’t forget to document all of your progress with the team member.


“I complete those steps every time, multiple times,

and they keep resorting to their poor performance ways.”


I can hear some of you now, “I complete those steps every time, multiple times, and they keep resorting to their poor performance ways.” I am certainly not saying that we should not try to help those struggling to perform or try to reshape those that have toxic traits, but as a leader there is only so much coaching and support we can offer. When we are spending the majority of our time putting out fires and involved in long coaching sessions with individuals that results in no change we need to start refocusing our attention back to our superstars. If we find ourselves trying to micromanage the issues then we are doing a disservice to those who are exceptional. Too many leaders are enabling poor performers by placating their bad ways.

When we elevate our superstar unicorns and develop their leadership skills, they are more likely to contribute to strengthening the team as a whole. When we keep our unicorns happy they stay motivated and enthusiastic which is infectious to the rest of the team. Your main job as a leader is to grow future leaders.

To keep your unicorn superstars happy be sure to:

· Treat them As Equals. If they don’t feel like they are equal to the leaders then they will not be as motivated to be the leader that they are. Unicorns are leaders.

· Provide Consistent Feedback. Unicorns know they are awesome, but they are actually quite humble. They want feedback, but likely won’t ask for it. It’s imperative that managers not forget about them and provide the same constant feedback to them as they do other employees.

· Ask for Their Opinion. They didn’t become a unicorn by not knowing anything. They worked hard to become the superstar that you see now. Leaders need to remember that sometimes the best solutions don’t come from other managers or supervisors. Many times, the best solution and ideas come from the employees who are working in the trenches.

· Appreciate Your Unicorns. Your unicorns may know that they are superstars, but they want to know that you know they are superstars. They want to feel like you can’t function as well without them. The reality is you cannot. Be sure you frequently tell your unicorns exactly how much you value them.

· Challenge the Unicorns. All good leaders know how to challenge their superstars. The problem is that many leaders have forgotten to ask their unicorns whether or not they felt challenged in their own skills and knowledge. As a manager ask your superstars, “Do you feel like you are growing here or are you bored?” If the answer that they are bored then it dive into that immediately before they make the decision to leave.

It's hard having individuals on your team that are struggling. Certainly help coach them within reason. Unfortunately, there are some that are not open to being coached. At some point you need to exert your energy elsewhere. Trust me when I say, it is far more rewarding to exert your energy to someone who is positive, wants to make a difference in the hospital and wants to become a leader on your team. Stop promoting poor performance and start emphasizing excellent performance. When your team sees the amount of energy, coaching and care you dedicate to the unicorns on your team they will want to bring themselves up to that level. Set the bar high if that’s where you want your team to go.

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