The Team Is Not Right

We have problems with our staff. We’ve lowered our standards, accepted mediocrity. If a person doesn’t want to do something, we don’t deal with it. I can’t just throw more people at the problem, or I’ll go broke. How do I fix this?

At least you recognize there’s a problem. Start looking from the top down. Are there performance standards? Do special players get special treatment? Who is responsible for what, and are they doing their jobs?

Most companies have been looking at ways to cut costs, and by now they’ve pulled down all the low hanging fruit. Getting further improvement will come from increasing staff performance by having the right people, properly trained and supervised, doing specific jobs. Overlooking problems has to be a thing of the past.

Make sure managers know that they are responsible for enforcing rules, work ethic and quality. Meet with supervisors regularly to quiz them on what’s happening. Find out specifically what they’re doing to make improvements.

Resist the temptation to step in and take over. If you step in, you get busier and the people you step over learn to let you do their work. If you’re tempted to step in, it’s probably because someone isn’t doing his or her job. Deal with the core problem. Get that person to step up, or move out – and line up someone else to move in.

Set up ways to supervise performance. Spot check work. Work side-by-side with people. Find out who’s trying, and who’s making excuses.

Start with the daily tone. When people clock in for work, expect to have their full attention. Personal calls are limited to breaks. Tell people to arrive on time by being 5 minutes early. Spend time at the end of the day wrapping things up, rather than leaving problems and open issues for the next day.

When you see performance problems, address them immediately, swiftly. Tell the person who’s having the problem what’s expected. If you think they’re capable of learning, get them a teacher. If not, ask them to step down into a less stressful job or show them the door.

Many managers hesitate to ask people to leave the company. They worry about the human side, that people won’t be able to find another job in this economy. The flip side is that if someone isn’t doing their job properly, that could end up jeopardizing the entire company, and then everyone will be out of work.

Employees and supervisors must actively communicate and coordinate. Use technology to report on what’s done, and to assess profitability. Set up a schedule of meetings to insure people take time to get together. Look at systems available in your industry that can help your company share information and report on productivity, cost and quality.

As the owner, you’re a role model for everyone. Show people how to improve. Demand and give respect. Be clear what it is that you want. Be a teacher and a leader.

If you get frustrated, take a break. Step away before you do more harm than good. Avoid bullying people. Ask people to be responsible. Focus attention and rewards on those people who can meet your standards. If no one is meeting your standards, reconsider what you’re asking of everyone.

Managing personnel in a quality driven environment, takes time to build up. It won’t happen overnight. Stay on top of the details, be consistent, put your demands in writing for everyone to see. Make sure you have a no-exceptions environment, where everyone is held to the same standard.

Finally, keep in mind that now is a good time to look for new hires. Something like 85% of employees plan to seek a different job as the economy turns up. Someone’s need for change may turn into your next great employee. Put feelers out, interview constantly, and when you find someone great, consider where they might fit in your organization.

Looking for a good book? Analyzing Performance Problems: Or, You Really Oughta Wanna – How to Figure out Why People Aren’t Doing What They Should be, and What to do About It, by Robert F. Mager.


Andi Gray is president of Strategy Leaders Inc.,, a business consulting firm that specializes in helping entrepreneurial firms grow. She can be reached by phone at 877-238-3535. Do you have a question for Andi?  Please send it to her, via e-mail at or by mail to Andi Gray, Strategy Leaders Inc., 5 Crossways, Chappaqua, NY 10514. Visit for an entire library of Ask Andi articles.

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