Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 17, Issue 28;   July 12, 2017: Performance Issues for Nonsupervisors

Performance Issues for Nonsupervisors

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If, in part of your job, you're a nonsupervisory leader, such as a team lead or a project manager, you face special challenges when dealing with performance issues. Here are some guidelines for nonsupervisors.
Masonry arches

Masonry arches. Arches are so strong and stable that they can survive even when the buildings they formerly belonged to have disappeared or when they've been looted for their stone blocks. Strong as they are, though, arches collapse instantly if one of their stones is removed. Teams are much like arches. They're strong and productive if every team member performs, but if one team member fails to perform, the team might be unable to produce.

Suppose you're a team lead of some kind, and a team member — call him Oscar — is exhibiting a pattern of substandard performance that limits team performance. If you aren't Oscar's supervisor, how can you put this right? What are some common mistakes to avoid?

Let's define performance issues first. A performance issue is any pattern of failing to meet organizational standards of conduct, attitude, or results. Examples include accomplishing assigned tasks late, excessive questioning of the legitimacy of assignments, or failing to comply with team priorities or norms.

The essential elements of a performance issue are the pattern and the organizational standards. Occasional deviation from organizational standards isn't a performance issue, because Life happens. What makes deviation from standards a performance issue is repetition. And even though you might have expectations relative to conduct, attitude, or results, performance is an issue only if your expectations are consistent with organizational standards.

Here are seven guidelines for dealing with performance issues as a nonsupervisor.

Confer with your supervisor and Oscar's supervisor
Before acting, confer with your supervisor. Alert him or her to the problem. Ask for comments on your plan. Do the same with Oscar's supervisor. Emphasize to both that you'd like to settle the matter personally with Oscar. Express confidence.
Have a private conversation
Speak with Oscar privately. Avoid embarrassing him publicly.
Remember: you aren't Oscar's supervisor
Approach the conversation with Oscar as a negotiation between peers. Because you don't supervise Oscar, you cannot issue orders or commands. Make your needs known to Oscar, and request his cooperation.
State your concerns clearly
Express your concerns, explaining to Oscar how his performance compromises team performance. Ask Oscar for any information that could change your perspective.
Seek agreement
The goal of the conversation with Oscar is agreement about what will change and when. Determine what he needs, and provide it if it's reasonable. Write down what you both agree to, in hardcopy, signed by both of you.
If you can't agree, explain what's next
Tell Oscar Occasional deviation from organizational
standards isn't a performance issue.
It is repetition that makes
substandard performance an issue.
that you're disappointed that agreement wasn't possible, and that you'll be consulting your supervisor about next steps. Oscar will likely contact his supervisor to prepare a defense, but if he doesn't indicate his intention to do so, recommend it to him.
Follow through
If Oscar makes real progress, celebrate it in some way. Express your delight and confidence in him. If Oscar doesn't make sufficient progress, consult your supervisor and explain what went wrong. Let him or her know that the team's objective is at risk. Work together to deal with the problem.

If your supervisor can't or won't intervene effectively to address the issue, then the task for which you're accountable might be at risk. If you have a risk plan, add this item, omitting Oscar's actual name, of course. At this point, you've done what you can do. It isn't satisfying, but that's that. Go to top Top  Next issue: Regaining Respect from Others  Next Issue

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