A common management response when an employee is underperforming is for someone in leadership to be called upon to step in and fix it. This usually takes the form of a process involving endless meetings and complicated appraisals, a process that probably accomplishes little but leaves management feeling satisfied that they’ve done everything possible to fix the problem employee.
Great leaders, however, understand there are lots of reasons that trying to fix a person never works. Some of the most significant:
It breeds resentment. Leadership is supposed to be about serving others, not trying to repair them. When you try to fix someone, you’re almost certainly going to be perceived as arrogant. It’s a sure way to breed resentment, which often metastasizes into bitterness and anger that may poison not only your relationship with that employee, but the entire team.
It’s not empowering. Hearing from your boss, manager or leader that need to be fixed is the opposite of empowering. The resulting emotions are most often a sense of distress that people don’t see you for who you are and what you are capable of. It’s demotivating and leads to disengagement.
It rarely works. Numerous studies have shown that trying to fix people with advice rarely works. As cognitively advanced beings, most of our behaviors and beliefs are determined by habit—our everyday behavior—and that’s not something that can be changed easily in a conversation.
It pushes people away. There is nothing worse than telling another person that they’re not good enough. Leadership is supposed to be about bonding with others, not pushing them away. Once someone gets the message that they’re considered less than adequate, they’re likely to start showing up less and doing less. The best leaders understand that they’re in the business of inspiring greatness in others, not making them feel inferior.
It comes across as controlling. The attitude that you need to fix someone means you want to control them, and controlling others never works. Leaders who understand human nature realize that the start of any meaningful change comes internally, with a changed belief. People change when they believe they can and they should—not because anyone else thinks so.
No one ever wants to feel they are broken. When an employee is underperforming, that’s a time to connect. Find out about the context of the problem and whether any of it is within your ability to change. Respectfully make sure expectations and consequences are clear and offer to provide any resources that may be helpful.
Lead from within: They key to not fixing others is to never to think that people have something wrong with them. We all wander off the path from time to time, for all kinds of reasons, and that is when great leadership steps in to empower.
#1 N A T I O N A L B E S T S E L L E R
The Leadership Gap
What Gets Between You and Your Greatness
After decades of coaching powerful executives around the world, Lolly Daskal has observed that leaders rise to their positions relying on a specific set of values and traits. But in time, every executive reaches a point when their performance suffers and failure persists. Very few understand why or how to prevent it.
Additional Reading you might enjoy:
- 12 Successful Leadership Principles That Never Grow Old
- A Leadership Manifesto: A Guide To Greatness
- How to Succeed as A New Leader
- 12 of The Most Common Lies Leaders Tell Themselves
- 4 Proven Reasons Why Intuitive Leaders Make Great Leaders
- The One Quality Every Leader Needs To Succeed
- The Deception Trap of Leadership
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Of Lolly’s many awards and accolades, Lolly was designated a Top-50 Leadership and Management Expert by Inc. magazine. Huffington Post honored Lolly with the title of The Most Inspiring Woman in the World. Her writing has appeared in HBR, Inc.com, Fast Company (Ask The Expert), Huffington Post, and Psychology Today, and others. Her newest book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness has become a national bestseller.