James Crenshaw*, the CEO of a modest $100 million corporation, is doing a business review with his management team. Sitting across the table are the National Head of Sales, the Production Head, the HR Head and the Finance Controller. “Jamie” is normally an easy going bloke with a drop-dead engaging smile, but today, he is frowning.
The falling production and dwindling sales figures give him little reason for celebration. The numbers do not look healthy at all and overall outlook for the rest of the year looks quite bleak indeed.
Looking round the table, he asks his core management team what the problem is.
Jamie’s managers later came back and said that they had ‘issues’ with their teams. They felt that some team members may have knowledge of their jobs but may not have the right attitude. Others seemed very eager to do their jobs, but lacked enough experience.
The managers were spending far too much time trying to explain the jobs to the staff and get better productivity. They did not understand what the problem was and were not sure how to find a solution.
Jamie’s issues are not isolated. Many companies and teams we work with tell us that they are not able to pinpoint what the issue is let alone find a solution to it.
This is an area that is often checked at hiring stage when the employee is interviewed for a position within the company. This may include knowledge, skills and other requirements of the job-holder.
But what happens when an existing employee has worked for a few years in the company? His job responsibilities have increased and it is quite possible the Management is assigning him additional work for which he has not been given the required induction or orientation.
This results in the employee having to take on responsibilities with fear of not doing a good job and the employer not recognising this as an issue to be addressed, in the daily course of business.
Attitude is seldom taught. People come with certain ingrained prejudices and attitudes. This can be checked at an interview stage; however, attitude is something that is unique and personal to the individual. Most people hold on to a certain inherent ‘work attitude’.
The combination of Ability and Attitude produces work results. The lack of one of these important components can derail the progress of an individual or an organisation.
Recognising the issue
It is possible to isolate what the issue is and work on it. For this to happen, the business owner must take some time off to focus on the individual. Is it an ‘ability’ issue? Or is it an ‘attitude’ issue?
The simple matrix below illustrates how the issue can be isolated.
The top-left quadrant yields performance and indicates a performing employee with appropriate attitude and ability (knowledge, skills etc) to do his work.
This is an optimum situation and needs to be sustained and coached for higher performance.
The bottom-left quadrant is indicating that the employee has the appropriate attitude towards work, but the quality of his work is suffering due to insufficient ability.
This can be provided through training. (Eg: – product knowledge, selling skills training etc.)
An employee who falls within the top-right quadrant needs to be treated with care. (Can do, but does not want to do). These are normally “prima donnas” or “high flyers” in a company.
They know their jobs all right, but could have an attitudinal problem. Such employees may require coaching, counselling and other specialised interventions.
The bottom-right quadrant is potentially a problem where the employee neither has sufficient ability to do his work nor has the appropriate attitude. It is better to escalate such cases to the attention of the top management for suitable action.
Therefore, in order to deal with the issue, the recommendation would be to first begin to isolate the root cause of the performance problem and then work on a suitable course of action to fill the identified gap as above.
Aspects of accountability, ownership and deeper attitude orientation are built on these initial baby steps. More about this soon…
Suresh Verghis, PCC
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