When to Stop Investing in Poor Performers

Investing in people to develop and become better performers is important — as long as you are getting a good return on the investment.  But too often I see organizations spending money and management time and attention on weak performers, and not investing much at all in the high performers where a good return is practically guaranteed.  Yes, you want to make sure that you’ve given individuals a good chance to turn-around weak performance, but you need to set a reasonable time period during which they must show measurable improvement in accountability.  After that, if they haven’t shown sufficient improvement, you need to find someone else.

How much are you investing in weak performers vs high performers?
Are you satisfied with the return?

Copyright 2017  Bob Legge

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Bob Legge has an unmatched ability to help clients achieve competitive advantage, leaving competitors in their dust.  He has worked with companies across industries and geographies to align critical elements, dominate their markets, and achieve dramatic results, such as 600% revenue increase in three years.  Personally, he enjoys sailing where both his strategic abilities and tactical skills help him see interesting places while having a fabulous time with friends and family. .

Contact him at:   bob.legge@leggecompany.com.

10 Ways to Eliminate Mediocrity in Your Organization

An organization that accepts mediocrity is a haven for under performers, and very frustrating for high performers.  Here are ten ideas I found in my work with organizations are each effective in reducing mediocrity.  Best of all, you can put any of these ideas to work immediately.  If you can accomplish 8 to 10 of them, you’ll sharply-focus your organization, reinforce strong accountability, and dramatically improve operating results.

  1. Improve your hiring selection process to focus on behaviors that support your culture, as well as a performance track record, and an attitude of learning and growth. One of the best ways to improve overall quality of results is to make sure that you don’t hire problem performers.  Set a goal to always hire individuals who are better than your average performer, that way you’ll constantly be upgrading your talent.
  2. Educate all your managers, especially at the top, about how they should lead, manage, and coach their people. Create “the way we manage people here” mentality along with specific guidelines and company leadership values.  Too often organizations don’t do this and managers end up ‘doing their own thing.’  That’s not good quality people management.  A smart practice is to ensure that every manager has a people-related accountability and performance objective.
  3. Continually improve your strategy development process so that you have a clear direction and overall performance objectives. A good process for creating strategy involves key people so that they all understand it, contribute to the development, have buy-in, and can continually reinforce it throughout the organization.
  4. Make a conscious effort to communicate strategy throughout your organization so that know what to focus on in their daily work to help achieve the strategy. You want an organization where everyone understands where the organization is going and how it expects to get there.  I’ve seen companies not communicate strategy because they think their strategy is so confidential.  Hogwash!  How are your people to know what they are working towards if you don’t tell them.
  5. Develop a goal-setting process that aligns effort and results on key metrics. Setting overall goals and specific objectives is where the rubber meets the road.  You’ve got to translate the strategy into specific goals and objectives for groups and individuals.  Schedule goal setting to begin the year with goals; not 3-4 months after the start of the year.
  6. Provide regular performance feedback (“Here’s how you’ve done.”) and performance feed-forward (“Here’s how you can be more effective going forward.”) Of the two, feed-forward is more effective in improving performance.  Regular feedback is at least monthly, not annually.
  7. Understand that newer employees, those working remotely, recently promoted, and longer-term employees all have different needs for feedback — one standard approach is unlikely to work for   In short:  Know how much feedback each person requires.
  8. Create a system where people can track their own results and get feedback from their peers on where they stand, what they are doing well, and how they can be more effective. Incorporate your own organization’s best practices.  Make this a dynamic system.  There are some great tools available to automate this process and implement a ‘social media’ kind of performance feedback system.
  9. Identify under-performers early. Give them candid feedback, specific improvement objectives, and the opportunity to improve.  When you have a performance problem, determine whether it is a skills issue or a motivation issue — the solution is quite different for each.
  10. Develop a standard separation process to exit people from the organization while treating them fairly and with dignity. Separating people is never pleasant, but a good process will make it easier.

Stop procrastinating about this whole issue — begin today.  The best time to begin is now because every day you wait is another day that you are not getting the results you need, and another day that your best performers wonder if things will ever change.

If you want to get off to a fast start, call me and together we’ll put together a plan to immediately get better results.

© Copyright 2017  Bob Legge

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Bob Legge provides organizations with the ability to exceed their most ambitious goals.  I work with leaders of Fortune 500 companies, small and mid-size companies, nonprofits, education, and government. Together, we drive strategy, lead successful change, develop high performance cultures, improve individual and organizational performance, and produce faster, sustainable growth and value.  Contact him at  bob.legge@leggecompany.com

What to do About Individual Performance Problems

I am often asked to look at people in key positions who are not performing at the level expected.  Often, management already has in mind the solution:  “He needs training,” or, “She needs coaching.”

Before jumping to an alternative solution, it’s important to understand the cause of the performance issue.  The key question to ask is this:  Could the person do the job if he/she absolutely had to?

  • If the answer is no, then you have either a training/development issue, or an inability to learn the job.
  • If the answer is yes, then it is an issue of volition — the person could do it, but doesn’t want to.

Those are two very different situations, each requiring very different solutions.

Be careful about how you diagnose performance issues.

When Poor Performance is Caused by the Boss

When analyzing a performance problem, I’ve found it often pays to look at the supervisor or manager and how they manage their people.  Examples:

  • Micromanaging
  • Unclear or no accountabilities
  • Weak communications
  • A lack of performance standards
  • Ineffective or no key processes
  • No performance reviews
  • No performance plans
  • Not addressing performance problems
  • Not addressing development needs
  • Gaps or overlaps in accountability
  • Consistently hiring the wrong people, and so on.

In fact, it’s astounding how often it’s the boss who is enabling performance problems, and with some help, he or she can significantly improve the performance of an individual, a department, a division, or even a company.  Many  times the boss is not aware that this is happening and is very receptive to guidance or coaching.

Do you have supervisors or managers who can be more effective?  What are you doing to help them?

© Copyright 2016  Bob Legge

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Bob Legge provides organizations with the ability to exceed their most ambitious goals.  I work with leaders of Fortune 500 companies, small and mid-size companies, nonprofits, education, and government. Together, we drive strategy, lead successful change, develop high performance cultures, improve individual and organizational performance, and produce faster, sustainable growth and value.  Contact him at  bob.legge@leggecompany.com

Weak Company Performance and Great Employee Reviews

Bob LeggeMy most successful clients are very good at aligning individual goals with strategic intent so that everybody is actively working to achieve the company’s strategy and acting like an owner of the company. What you want to avoid is rewarding people for doing well on things that don’t further or support strategic goals. That is one of the reasons why a company may not have good results, yet employees are rated highly for their performance. Be sure that you have good alignment; that you have all your people making decisions, being evaluated, being rewarded for the support of the strategic plan, driving company growth, and keeping and maintaining your best customers.

The Key to Improving Performance

Imagine you’re in the passing lane of highway.  There are several cars in a line just ahead of you so you cannot  go any faster, but another car is very close behind you, tailgating.   That driver must believe that somehow you’ll go faster.  He is mistaken.

When a person is not performing up to your expectations and you want him or her to improve, you have to find out why the performance is lagging.  It could be skill, it could be motivation, it could be the tools, or one of many causes, including the inherent speed imposed by procedures.

If you want to change an effect, you must find the cause.  It is a mistake to try to change the effect.  It does no good to ride a person’s bumper if he or she cannot go faster.

Why have performance reviews?

Recently, there’s been a lot written about how bad performance reviews are.  I agree.  In fact, the traditional performance review is perfectly designed to deflate employees, depress managers, and provide no meaningful improvement to either performance or development.  But if you think people don’t like performance reviews, try not having them–people won’t like that either.

The key is to refocus on the purpose of performance reviews (and it’s not to determine how to dole out the merit increase budget, which is a big part of the problem.)  A hint:  If your performance review process isn’t resulting in better performance and better alignment with your business strategy, you should get rid of it and start from scratch.  And if you want ideas on how to do it, send me an email (bob.legge[at]leggecompany.com) and I’ll send you my article on how to do it.