There is no magic formula

At one of my first conference presentations, speaking on staff performance, I suggested the idea that there was no magic formula.

I’ve also used the common phrase, “there is no silver bullet.”

Meaning, you do one thing as a supervisor, and it makes everything better immediately.

This is particularly true given poor staff performance or when someone does not meet expectations.

I have come across many individuals who want to see a turn-around or improvement in performance within 30-60-90 days.

They take the position that by simply providing feedback and clarifying expectations the performance should improve i.e., the magic formula.

The old, one and done theory. One conversation should be sufficient for improvement to manifest itself.

In my experience, the reality is far from one and done.

In such cases, the formula would be the supervisor telling the staff member what they are doing wrong, how to do it correctly, and the staff then doing it as they were told or shown.

Often, supervisors will expect them to continue to perform poorly and start to prepare for an escalation process towards disciplinary measures.

As an alternative, what if we focused on something a bit different than the classic formula.

What if we considered that people will perform to our expectations of them.

In other words, if the supervisor wants a good result, they should truly believe in the staff to perform at the required level.

Instead of expecting the next phase to be an escalation towards discipline, plan for a celebrated milestone.

To start, the supervisors should plan to put in as much effort as is expected from the staff member. The supervisor becomes the teacher and mentor, even to those who are not performing well.

Imagine, would we ever accept a teacher in a school purposely choosing to provide less guidance to a child who is not as strong on a subject compared to the pupils who are?

The improved performance of the child who was not as strong on the subject would be a reflection on the acumen of the teacher.

Similarly, if a supervisor has the acumen, they can greatly influence the performance improvement of the staff member by coaching and mentoring them towards success.

People will lean towards your expectations of them.

Lean towards failure and they will fail.

Authentically lean towards success and contribute substantially to their progress and they are more likely to succeed.

When performance issues arise, instead of the threat of punishment, offer a path towards success.

Do an exercise to review their strengths and how they tie-in with the work.

Propose regular feedback sessions and check-ins and offer retraining as a starting point.

Yes, this will take a substantial amount of time on the part of the supervisor.

At the start, the supervisor may spend more time on the planning than reviewing the work of the staff. The supervisor may even learn by doing the work themselves.

The development of a roadmap detailing contributions from both the supervisor and the staff may facilitate the process.

Granted, at times this approach won’t work as there might be other underlying issues at play. Yet hopefully this would be the exception and not the norm.

There is no magic formula, yet there might be a worthier road.