What to Do When a Great Employee’s Performance Slips

Mike Kotsis People Issues Leave a Comment

closeup of businessman's shoe about to step on a banana peel

For a company to be successful, they’ve got to have great people on their team. Great people are people who fit seamlessly into your culture, they share your core values, and they’re very talented for their role in the business. Once they were hired in and brought up to speed, everything felt great.

Then one day something changed. You can’t put your finger on the exact moment, but suddenly they don’t feel as great as they once did in that position. This feeling is subtly nagging in the back of your mind, but you’ve got too many other things going on at the moment to address it.

But this great employee’s performance starts to slip, creating more workload on your already busy plate. It’s normal for this to simmer on many leadership teams without being addressed for weeks, months, and sometimes even years.

Three different client leadership teams saw great employees underperforming, but they acted differently from most teams. They uncovered the root cause of the feeling and they were able to solve it right away so that it wouldn’t continue to linger.

Here’s how they did it.

3 Critical Questions to Evaluate Underperforming Employees

These teams knew that in their business there are only two people issues: Right Person/Wrong Seat and Wrong Person/Right Seat. In all three cases the teams used their People Analyzer to determine that the people in question shared the company core values—they fit into the culture—but there was an issue with their seat in the business. Then, using the Accountability Chart, they looked at the seat and the essential daily five roles and responsibilities that each person was accountable for.

Each leadership team was able to get clarity on the root cause in just a few minutes. They asking three yes-or-no questions related to their five roles and responsibilities:

Do they get it?

In his book The Element, Ken Robinson shares a great definition of getting it: “Get it is aptitude; or the natural ability for something. An intuitive feel or grasp of what the job is, how it works and how to do it. Natural feel: biochemistry.”

Do they want it?

This means that you genuinely want the job. It gives you energy. No one is pushing you to want it. Financial incentives aren’t a factor. Life isn’t 100% perfect, you’ll have a bad day here and there, that’s normal—but you enjoy overcoming the challenges that are thrown at you. It doesn’t drain your energy.

Do they have capacity?

This means that you have the emotional, intellectual, physical, and time capacity to do the job.

  • Emotional—You’re self aware enough to know how you’re impacting other people
  • Intellectual—You have the brains to solve complex problems and critical thinking that the position requires
  • Physical—You have the energy to finish what you start and get your hands dirty when necessary
  • Time—You have enough self-discipline to manage your time, to set your priorities in a proactive way, not reactively always fighting fires

Permanently Resolving Employee Issues

My clients used these three questions and agreed that they must be able to answer each one with a confident “yes” to determine that the employee was in the right seat.

Anytime the answer is “no,” it helps the team to determine direction and next steps to solve the issue once and for all. As a result, there are no longer uneasy, lingering feelings about people not being as great as they once were.

Sometimes, all you need to solve the issue is simply answering these questions and having a direct conversation with the employee. When it doesn’t solve the issue, the team is then able to move in another direction to fill the seat with someone who gets it, wants it, and has the capacity to do it.

Next Steps


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.