Skill or Will? Either way it comes back to you, boss

Last Spring, I was leading a roundtable discussion group of managers from various industries and we were talking about how to get the best performance from your people. One manager chimed in with “Hire slow, fire fast”. Most of the group acknowledged this comment with knowing head nods and “mm hmm” approvals. That really wasn’t the topic we were there to discuss so I guided the group back to our main focus, but the comment got me thinking.

“Hire slow.” I get the idea behind this; you should do your research, dive into a candidate’s background, skills, accomplishments and definitely take the reference check process seriously. The costs of turnover are high, usually much higher than employers are aware. Doing the hard work to make sure you are hiring someone who can do the job, will fit in well with your company’s culture, and be an asset to your team is important and well worth your time and energy.

So now you’ve done that, you have hired a great employee. New employee starts and after a while, you start to get the feeling something’s not quite right. Initially, your new employee was doing well, but now, not so much. Their work is not up to your expectations, their productivity, quality, and quantity of work is less than when they started. This is impacting your business, and not in a positive way. What do you do?

“Fire fast.” A quick and easy solution may be to get rid of this nonproducer. Before you do though, there are 5 questions to ask yourself, boss.

Did I clearly communicate the expected behavior and results expected? We all know what happens when we assume. As managers/leaders/supervisors we have the responsibility to spell things out to our new employees. In order to get the best, we have to let them know what best is.

Did I provide the necessary knowledge, resources, and training? A friend recently took a job as a server in a bar/restaurant. Her trainer showed her the most basic transactions on the point of sale system, then spent the rest of the evening sitting at the bar chatting with her boyfriend the bartender. The kitchen got upset with my friend for not entering food orders “correctly”. When she asked her “trainer” for guidance, she got the response “Oh, yeah. You have to enter those a different way.” Most employees want to do a good job. Providing the tools and training to do the job well is critical, especially when someone is just starting out.

Did I create an environment to help my employee succeed? Just because you assign one of your employees to train the new one, it doesn’t mean it will be done well. Setting expectations and communicating them is a basic whether we’re talking about brand new employees or your long-term ones who are doing the training.

Is the employee motivated to perform as expected? Back to my friend the server’s story, at the end of that first training shift, her “trainer” received all of the tips. Talk about a demotivator. As the leader, you have to provide the encouragement, motivation, recognition, and rewards that will inspire your employees to do their best. Be in tune with what’s happening with your team. They are all individuals and what motivates one may fall completely flat for another.

Very few professions require that we work alone. You aren't alone.

Am I leading by example? In my friend’s story, this was a definite “no”. The manager wasn’t ever present to observe the new employee’s work performance. How can you possibly assess the effectiveness of a new employee if you never see them in action? I’m sure there are many industries that rely solely on metrics, key performance indicators, and other measurable results to evaluate employees’ performance. In any service industry though, the numbers alone tell only a portion of the story. Successful leaders set the tone, demonstrate the desired behaviors, and lead their teams with positivity, not fear.

The success of you and your team comes down to not skill OR will, but skill AND will; and both come back on you, boss.

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