Ask the Coach: I have an employee that doesn’t keep agreements, attend meetings or participate in feedback. However, this is an employee who is a top producer, so I don’t want to make a change. What can I do to change how this person operates?
That is a great question and one that I know managers experience all the time. A top producer – getting results – however, not participating or being a positive influence on the team. Sometimes managers can feel ‘held hostage’ by people that operate this way – because the organizational results are great, however, the experience working with them is not.
How can you change this person? My response is simple – you can’t. We often try to get others to operate how we’d like, and the truth is that the only one who is capable of changing behavior is the individual that makes the choice to change their own behavior. However, there are options available to you as the manager.
1. Be clear about the consequences of their behavior. What are the consequences of ‘pocket vetos’ or missed agreements? Lack of trust. Is that important? In my opinion, YES. As a leader or manager, trust is critical for my ability to rely on someone’s word, ability to deliver results and keep agreements. In my book, how you show up is just as important as the results you deliver.
2. Communicate what you notice is happening and what you’d like to see be different.
3. Share what you see as the consequences of the behaviors you don’t like.
4. Listen to their story or reasoning to determine if you are addressing the ‘real’ issue at hand. Asking questions will help you get to the bottom of what’s really going on.
5. Ask for their agreement to do something different: Are you willing to attend the meetings, on time?
6. Sometimes engaging someone to have a different role (lead a meeting, share or train a team, etc.), can offer a different way to engage them and accomplish your goals in the process.
Now, let’s look at what your choices are to manage yourself as a manager. Again, if you can’t change someone else, then what you can change is yourself and how you respond to situations. Take a look at where the real problem exists for yourself:
Am I defensive because this person is not following my direction and I don’t feel respected as a leader?
Am I embarrassed or worried about what everyone else thinks of me if I allow these behaviors to continue?
If I look at what bothers me as a manager, I have a better chance of realizing the ‘real’ problem for me and finding a solution. Is this issue real, and if so what is its impact on the rest of my team, culture and organization?
As a manager or leader, the results someone gets are equally important as how they show up. By doing nothing, you still achieve results, but also potentially impact culture amongst the rest of the team. I recommend you have an open conversation with this employee about his or her impact on the team, ask for a commitment for change and if not, take a hard look at the impact it has on your overall team. Doing nothing can be the costliest option but doing something can create a different result. Whatever you do, don’t be held hostage by the high performer or his or her results. If the person has a negative impact on your team, people and organization, it is likely costing you more than you think.
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