Diagnosing Underperformance Without Impacting Morale

June 28, 2023

Agoes Santosa (Senior Associate, HR Advisor) gave some advise and thoughtful answers to questions from our alumni community

Who is Campus Aunty?

An in-house agony aunt spin-off answering our learning community’s sticky questions. This time, we passed the question to Agoes Santosa (Senior Associate, HR Advisor), from our HR community.

Hi Campus Aunty,

I have recently been promoted to the role of a team lead, and am now managing a team of 4 people. Lately, I’ve been noticing how one of my reports is underperforming in relation to her peers who are clearly performing well. Do you have any thoughts on how I can approach the underperforming report without making her feel demotivated or cornered?


Learning the Ropes

Hi Learning the Ropes,

In every successful team, there can be instances where one member struggles while others excel. I have had similar situations in the past. Navigating this requires a coaching mindset that’s focused on guiding the individual towards improved performance without impacting their morale.

For this, I use a simple framework: “COACH”, which embodies the core principles of coaching in a team environment:

C - Confirm the issue

Begin by identifying and undertanding the specific areas where the team member’s performance is falling short. Use concrete examples and data to support your observations. It’s crucial that you have a clear, unbiased perspective on the situation.

O - Open dialogue

Engage the individual in a candid conversation about their performance. This should be a two-way communication — you should express your observations and concerns, and also listen to their viewpoint. They may be unaware of their performance gaps, or they might be facing challenges you’re not aware of. During this dialogue, also try gauging how willing they are to work on their performance at the moment.

A - Align goals

Work together with the team member to set performance goals. This gives them a clear target to aim for and a way to gauge their improvement.

C - Catalyse growth

Provide the team member with the resources, training, or mentoring they need to reach their goals. Regular follow-ups and constructive feedback are key to their development.

H - Highlight progress

Acknowledge and celebrate when the team member makes strides in their performance. This encourages continued growth and keeps their motivation high. If progress is not being made despite your coaching efforts, it might be time to reassess the situation and consider other options.

💡 Tip! Coaching is most effective when the issue is around behavior and mindset - something that they really need to tackle because it is being a roadblock. Sometimes when the issue is NOT in their control to solve, it is best to support them in coming to a solution together or helping them get the resource they need.

In summary, the COACH framework is a practical tool for leaders to improve individual performance and maintain team harmony. Remember, everyone can have rough patches, and the right support can make all the difference. I urge you to use COACH in your teams and adapt it as needed.

If you want to share your experiences and insights as you put this framework into action, please do so! You can connect with me over LinkedIn and let's learn together to build better teams!

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