How to Improve The Self Esteem and Results of Those That Are Presently Under Performing

The chances are that everyone, even your absolute top performers, will go through periods where they underperform or lose some of their enthusiasm and engagement, leading to poor results. 

It’s also perfectly possible for someone to be doing all of the right things in their role and be very focused and engaged, yet results aren’t what they want them to be.  

Yes, it’s likely to happen to you too! It’s certainly happened to me at different times over the years.

So, how can you work with your team during times like these and help guide them back to high performance and high outputs? 

Let’s take a look.

Be clear on what success looks like

Firstly, this is a great opportunity to revisit what success actually looks like for your team members. This may mean looking at things such as:

  • The projects that they are working on.
  • Their own personal development goals.
  • The goals of your team.

The reason that this is so important to check is that it could be a source of the problems for your team if the goals either aren’t clear to them, or they are unrealistic and never likely to be hit. 

It’s also a good opportunity to involve your team in this conversation so that they can give their view on what success looks like and whether goals need to be tweaked. Whilst it’s probably not possible to change goals or targets completely, it’s definitely worth making sure that your team feels comfortable with them. Otherwise, they’re never going to be successful, no matter what else you help them with.

For example, a target may be perfectly reasonable for them to work towards, but the timeline for achieving it may be a bit too ambitious and needs an adjustment. Again, changing goals too much may not be doable, but there is nothing more crushing than working towards a target that you actually don’t feel is achievable.  

Look for the smaller wins

Within the larger goals and targets that someone is moving towards, there will be a bunch of smaller wins along the way. You need to take some time to identify these and call out when someone achieves them. Chances are that a larger goal or target will take some time to achieve, so it’s important to guide someone in the right direction and give them kudos for achieving the steps along the way. This can help keep them motivated, engaged and to build momentum too,

This is particularly important if someone has low confidence or self esteem. When you feel like this and feel like you’re not hitting your goals, it’s important to find smaller, but still meaningful wins along the way. 

One of my favourite ways to do this is a technique that I learned about in a book called The Four Disciplines of Execution. I’d recommend the book generally, particularly if you’re looking for an effective way to set goals and metrics of success for your team or organisation.

The one part of it that’s relevant to smaller wins is a concept called lead and lag measures.

A lag measure is something that happens as a result of lots of other things happening and usually isn’t something that happens quickly or easily as a result of one action or task being completed. 

A lead measure, on the other hand, is something that can be directly effected by an action being taken by someone. This lead measure, if improved, then contributes towards the lag measure being improved. 

For example, you may have something like this if you work in paid media:

  • Lag measure: revenue from product sales.
  • Lead measures: ad impressions, clicks and product page views.

The important point here is that the lead measures need to affect the lag measure.

So, bringing it back to your team, what are the lead measures that can be worked on that are the earliest signs of success towards the bigger goal? Whatever they are, make sure that you’re keeping an eye on them and using them to encourage and motivate your team that they are moving in the right direction, even if the bigger goal is still to be achieved. 

Don’t take away responsibility or accountability

I’ve written in detail about how this is one of the biggest mistakes I’ve made as a manager. When one of your team is struggling and low on confidence or not meeting targets, it’s a time when it’s very, very tempting to get hands on and take stuff away from them in order to help.

But this is exactly the wrong time to do this. 

Yes, when one of your team is struggling and not performing as well as they could be, you should be on hand to support and guide them,

But avoid the temptation to take things away from them that you shouldn’t. Taking tasks and projects away from them may relieve some short-term pain and they may even feel a bit better for it, but it will hurt their confidence more in the long-term.

Instead of taking away things that they are responsible or accountable for, try and do two things:

  1. Help them reevaluate their priorities and to-do list. This isn’t taking anything away from them and instead, is just making sure that they are prioritising correctly and giving themselves a chance of getting things done.
  2. Remove blockers to getting things done. Again, this isn’t about taking responsibility or accountability away from them, it’s about identifying what’s getting in the way that you can help remove. For example, they may be struggling to find time for deep work or they may have less important things to get done that they are focusing on instead.

Essentially, you can’t improve their confidence, motivation and self esteem if they have tasks or projects taken away completely. Help them focus, help them prioritise and remove blockers that are getting in the way.

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