Advice for When You Apply These Ideas

Remember this advice when dealing with a poor performing individual: corrective actions provide an opportunity for improvement and growth.

If you’re like many new managers, you won’t like this chapter. It’s all about failure! It’s all about having to pull that employee aside who—if you’re having regular 1:1s—you’ve come to get to know pretty well and probably even like as a person, and telling them they’re not measuring up. They’re failing! And it’s partly your fault, too—so you’re failing too! Failure to the left of us, failure to the right of us…

In truth, though, corrective actions, when taken in the right light and with the right attitude, provide opportunities for people—both your direct and yourself—to get better at your respective jobs.

For your direct, it’s an opportunity for them to address something that may have been holding them back at other jobs: their understanding of how to write quality code, their process of figuring out what tests to write, their interactions with their fellow team members, any or all of these things might have kept them from promotions and raises in previous (and current) roles. Until their manager points out that their behavior is not measuring up to standards, though, and provides the necessary space and expertise to improve, they’ll continue to flounder and never know why. Or, worse, know that what they’re doing isn’t sufficient, but never learn how to improve. Each of these are a core recipe for burnout. By addressing the problem head-on—and by providing solid guidance on how to improve—you’re actually rescuing them from a very dark and ugly place inside their head.

This isn’t all entirely just for your team members, though. By taking the time to improve your team—by establishing a fair and objective standard/expectation, and then holding them to that standard—you are more likely to earn their loyalty and their respect, which will in turn help grow the psychological safety of the whole team. Think about it: we’ve all been at those companies where there’s that one person who simply can’t get into trouble no matter what terrible things they do, and it’s a constant source of complaint and a hit to morale. When you make it clear that everyone—everyone—is to be held accountable, you signal to the rest of your team that this is truly a level playing field where anyone can excel.

And when you demonstrate, by your actions, that you are willing to put the time and effort in to help your team members meet that standard, you are showing that you’re “in it with them.” When you do this, you’re building a loyalty that simply cannot be “incentivized” no matter how much or how rich the incentive is.

It may not always feel like the “fun” thing to do, but like many hard things, it’s the right thing to do, and it yields significant benefits if done right.

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