Encouraging consistency

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in Leaders & Managers

Q. I have an employee who’s sometimes dependable, and sometimes not. It’s a real problem. When I give instructions, I’m never sure if they’ll be followed. And it’s feast or famine—either he does a fantastic job (often being incredibly responsive and going beyond the call of duty) or he just drops the ball and nothing gets done. I hate to nag, but I seem to be put in that position. What should I do?

A. Have you spoken with the employee about his spotty track record of compliance? When you do, arm yourself with facts. Say, “Over the last three months, I’ve assigned eight projects to you. You performed four of them very well. But the other four were neglected to the point where I had to have others pick up the slack.” Then ask in a curious, non-accusatory voice, “What’s going on?” By sticking to specific, verifiable incidents, you make it easier for the employee to address his performance without lapsing into defensiveness or making excuses. Your goal is to uncover cause-effect relationships to determine why in certain situations the individual comes through while in other cases he doesn’t. Don’t try to guess the answers or diagnose what you think is going on; instead, let him guide you by listening to him review his recent performance.

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