Leading and Managing: 8 Questions to Ask When Encountering Poor Performance

As a leader or manager, chances are that for the vast majority of time your people will consistently deliver great performance.  From time to time you are likely to encounter some who are not performing as expected.  So what questions should you be asking in these instances?


Does the employee have the personal ability?


It is easy to fall into the trap of assuming that people have the skills, experience or know how to do something.  We can assume because someone has done something similar in the past maybe in a previous organisation that they can do certain tasks.  Don’t assume, check out that they have the personal ability.


Are you giving clear enough direction and articulating expectations?


We can sometimes, especially if in a busy job, fall into the trap of skimming the surface when it comes to giving instructions, which leaves others guessing.  Ask yourself whether you are really giving clear direction for work that you are asking others to do and making your expectations clear.


Does the person have the right resources?


Asking people to deliver something without resourcing them to do it is setting up people to fail.  When asking someone to deliver a specific outcome, make sure they have access to the resources to make it happen.


Is the work environment contributing to poor performance?


As a leader and manger you need to make sure the work environment is conducive to delivering good performance.  Imagine for example you have someone doing a role that requires a lot of concentration.  Having them sitting in an open plan office with discussion and phones ringing all of the time might not be the best environment.


Is it a process problem?


Most processes impact on many different parts of the organisation.  If part of the process is not working it impacts on an individual’s ability to deliver.  For example, if the process for interfacing information from the payroll to the budget reports is not working it will impact on the ability of the management accountant to deliver timely budget reports for managers.


Are there personal circumstances?


We spend a lot of time at work but we also have busy lives outside of work.  If someone is struggling at work make sure that there are no personal circumstances outside of work that are getting in the way.


Is it all too easy?


Most of us need sufficient challenge in our work to keep us motivated.  If the job becomes too easy then people become complacent or just get bored.


Do you have a square peg in a round hole?


If you have considered all of the above, think about whether you just have a square peg in a round hole.  By that I mean someone who has the wrong skill set or personal attributes for the job you are asking them to do.


Bottom Line – Performance problems are part and parcel of leading and managing.  The key to dealing with effectively is to be systematic and avoid jumping to conclusions.



Duncan Brodie of Goals and Achievements helps accountants and health professionals to become highly effective managers and leaders.  For more information click here 

About the Author Duncan Brodie

Since 2006 I’ve worked with in excess of 8,000 accountants and professionals in workshops, seminars and one to one helping them land their next jobs and become better leaders, presenters and business partners. Before that I spent 25 years in accountancy climbing the career ladder from Payments Clerk to FD. I’m a CIMA Fellow, Certified Professional Coach and Team Coach Facilitator.

Leave a Comment:

Joan Henshaw says 23 December 2009

Great questions Duncan. I would add another – does the person understand the negative consequences (to the business, the team, you the manager) of their poor performance? My experience is that very few people want to cause problems and are motivated to improve their performance, when they understand the negative consequences resulting from what they are currently doing (or not doing). My model is A.R.C. – Action, Result, Consequences; ‘when you …, this is what happens…, and this is why it’s a problem…’

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