"Ms. Jones is not happy," William, the boss' assistant, told Julia as she walked by. "She just got off the phone with the folks at Greenville. They're asking for all our tracking info on the account service. They don't think they're getting what they paid for."
Julia paused. "They may be right," she said. "It's just ... Brad ... isn't doing his job."
"We know," William interjected. "Ms. Jones has already had a heart-to-heart talk with Brad. She hired him, after all. But we don't have any other hands to spare right now. I guess you're just going to have to crack down on him and see how it goes. Let me know if we can help."
Over the long term, managers like Julia have a number of options for improving the performance of chronic slackers like Brad—or cutting them loose entirely. But in the heat of a crisis, the options are more limited. How can Julia get better results from Brad right now? Here's what she said when they met:
Pulling, not pushing. Julia figured that if Ms. Jones had already chewed Brad out, any further tough talk about discipline, or worse, would be redundant. Instead, she had one question for Brad when she called him into her office: "What do you want to accomplish here?" She waited quietly for what seemed like an hour for Brad to answer. "I'm asking because I don't want to push you toward the outcome that's best for me. I want to help pull you toward the result that's best for you."
Targeting personal goals. As Julia suspected, Brad had not thought very much about his personal goals and motivations and how they meshed with this workplace. "You should start," she said. "See, we need better results on this account now, or we're going to lose it. The only way that's going to happen is if we figure out what will motivate us—as a team—to deliver superior results. You need to help me know what that is in your case. Is it different tasks to do? Is it more feedback and recognition? Is it the potential for other opportunities down the road?" As they talked in this vein, Brad agreed with some of her suggestions, and Julia wrote them down and committed her support.
Creating peer pressure. "The only thing I'll say that's 'personal' here," Julia continued, "is that it is your performance that could stand the most improvement. But this isn't just your issue. It's the whole team's issue. It's my issue. If there's something we need to do to help you, let us know what it is. But the flip side of that is that the whole team is going to be holding each member accountable."