By Elizabeth Carter
I think most would agree that they want to work for a quality organization, alongside those who have the skills, emotional intelligence, etc. to get their jobs done well. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Usually teams are put together based off of other factors including seniority, politics, and technical ability. This causes major problems because these groups do not work well together which leads to low morale and productivity.
Is there a way to improve the quality of those on a team? The answer is “it depends”. Companies are realizing that continuous learning is very important; not just learning new technologies, etc. but also focusing on the soft skills. The issue is how to measure the effectiveness of these trainings. I find that many people are very motivated after a presentation, but then the notes and ideas sit on a shelf never to be reviewed again. When I conduct trainings, I get the participants to identify an actionable item that must be completed within 48 hours AND also determine who could be an accountability partner to keep them on track. In addition, I have them write out a game plan that includes potential roadblocks/obstacles with time frames assigned to each item. They also have to have a reward for every milestone they accomplish.
What about the people who are very qualified in their roles but the team is holding them back? How do you keep them motivated and challenged without it looking like favoritism? This is also a major issue for leaders because if you don’t keep these employees engaged continuously, you could potentially lose them. I would have a frank conversation with these individuals that you want to do what you can to make their work as fulfilling as possible. Ask them to identify areas they want to improve upon. You can also make suggestions that may take them out of their comfort zone. Once a few ideas have surfaced have them design a career plan to achieve them. Whatever you do, don’t wait until their annual review. By then it will probably be too late. I would also review this plan with them at least once a month.
If there are specific employees who are really holding the team back, a different type of conversation has to take place. Ask “how” and “what” questions to draw them out to see if there are some issues that you are not aware of that need to be addressed. By showing empathy, there is a better likelihood that these employees will respond to you. If the issues are out of your scope i.e. mental health, family issues, etc., suggest they seek out help from human resources or their Employee Assistance Program (EAP). The reason leaders avoid these conversations is that they are fearful of how the employees will react. Most don’t like conflict, but a manager has to take the lead in dealing with these individuals, and by being as transparent as possible so the situation will hopefully improve. If not, disciplinary actions will need to occur and these need to be avoided as much as possible. In reality, most individuals just want to be heard and if they feel the leader is truly trying to help them, they will share what is bothering them or why they are not doing their job effectively. Running a quality organization with qualified people is always a challenge but the end results are also the most satisfying.