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

Performance Issues for Non-Supervisors

by

Last updated: August 8, 2018

If, in part of your job, you're a non-supervisory leader, such as a team lead or a project manager, you face special challenges when dealing with performance issues. Here are some guidelines for non-supervisors.
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 non-supervisor.

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

52 Tips for Leaders of Project-Oriented OrganizationsAre your projects always (or almost always) late and over budget? Are your project teams plagued by turnover, burnout, and high defect rates? Turn your culture around. Read 52 Tips for Leaders of Project-Oriented Organizations, filled with tips and techniques for organizational leaders. Order Now!

Your comments are welcome

Would you like to see your comments posted here? rbrennXOmPGcVuRbhYcIDner@ChacntmtKNapOZypeXBNoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.

About Point Lookout

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.

Point Lookout is a free weekly email newsletter. Browse the archive of past issues. Subscribe for free.

Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.

Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.

Related articles

More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:

A voteDecisions, Decisions: II
Most of us have participated in group decision-making. The process can be frustrating and painful, but it can also be thrilling. What processes do groups use to make decisions?
A pair of adult trumpeter swansFinding Work in Tough Times: Marketing
We aren't accustomed to thinking of finding work in tough times as a marketing problem, but it helps. Here are some suggestions for applying marketing principles to finding work in tough times.
"Taking an observation at the pole."Risk Management Risk: II
Risk Management Risk is the risk that a particular risk management plan is deficient. Here are some guidelines for reducing risk management risk arising from risk interactions and change.
A waterfall and spray cliff in the mountains of VirginiaDecisions: How Looping Back Helps
Group decision-making often proceeds through a series of steps including forming a list of options, researching them, ranking them, reducing them, and finally selecting one. Often, this linear approach yields disappointing results. Why?
Firefighter lighting grass using a drip torchHow to Get Out of Firefighting Mode: I
When new problems pop up one after the other, we describe our response as "firefighting." We move from fire to fire, putting out flames. How can we end the madness?

See also Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness and Effective Communication at Work for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

A rainbowComing May 29: Newtonian Blind Alleys: II
Some of our decisions don't turn out well. The nature of our errors does vary, but a common class of errors is due to applying concepts from physics originated by Isaac Newton. One of these is the concept of spectrum. Available here and by RSS on May 29.
Signing the Constitution of the United States, 1787And on June 5: I Could Be Wrong About That
Before we make joint decisions at work, we usually debate the options. We come together to share views, and then a debate ensues. Some of these debates turn out well, but too many do not. Allowing for the fact that "I could be wrong" improves outcomes. Available here and by RSS on June 5.

Coaching services

I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenwctaVyeAHAxeNRWTner@ChaclZVqxFeapaBmqjuEoCanyon.com or (650) 787-6475, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.

Get the ebook!

Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:

Reprinting this article

Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info

Public seminars

The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many The Power Affect: How We Express Personal Powerpeople who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.

Follow Rick

Send email or subscribe to one of my newsletters Follow me at LinkedIn Follow me at Twitter, or share a tweet Subscribe to RSS feeds Subscribe to RSS feeds
The message of Point Lookout is unique. Help get the message out. Please donate to help keep Point Lookout available for free to everyone.
Technical Debt for Policymakers BlogMy blog, Technical Debt for Policymakers, offers resources, insights, and conversations of interest to policymakers who are concerned with managing technical debt within their organizations. Get the millstone of technical debt off the neck of your organization!
Go For It: Sometimes It's Easier If You RunBad boss, long commute, troubling ethical questions, hateful colleague? Learn what we can do when we love the work but not the job.
303 Tips for Virtual and Global TeamsLearn how to make your virtual global team sing.
101 Tips for Managing ChangeAre you managing a change effort that faces rampant cynicism, passive non-cooperation, or maybe even outright revolt?
101 Tips for Effective MeetingsLearn how to make meetings more productive — and more rare.
Exchange your "personal trade secrets" — the tips, tricks and techniques that make you an ace — with other aces, anonymously. Visit the Library of Personal Trade Secrets.