Eric’s manager said to me, “Eric will not take initiative. He knows his job but does only what I tell him to do.”
“What have you tried?” I asked.
“I’ve told him to do what he thinks needs to be done and don’t wait around for me to give him an assignment. He wasn’t responsive, so I started giving him detailed checklists.”
“How did that work?”
“Not so well. Eric made a half-hearted effort to do a few things but mostly he just conjured up excuses.”
Effective leaders are attentive to each employees’ uniqueness. Some like detailed instructions, some like broad guidance. Some like public praise but public attention embarrasses others. Pressure motivates some people to rise to the occasion, others buckle.
If your current way of dealing with an employee is not producing the desired results, then change your methods.
Since micromanaging did not work with Eric, maybe the leader could try giving him specific outcomes with deadlines and a lot of freedom in performing his tasks.
Of course, if a leader tries several ways to motivate an employee and none seem to work, it is likely that the employee just does not have the talent or commitment to perform.
I like Jack Welch’s (the very successful, former CEO of General Electric) approach to performance appraisals.
Manager presents to the employee a handwritten sheet of paper. The left column lists the manager’s view of employee’s achievements. The right column contains items the employee could do better. Both lists focus on performance metrics and team behaviors.
Manager and employee engage in a meaningful conversation. Manager gives examples, “Your error rate is less than .03 percent, almost a ten percent improvement over last period.” “I like that you went out of your way to help our new engineer learn our software tool.”
Sum up by reporting, “Shelly, you are in the top twenty percent of our employees, and I’ll recommend a good pay increase.” Or, “Jackson, your overall performance puts you in the solid seventy percent of our team and your raise will reflect that. I would like to see improvement in meeting deadlines and reducing errors. I’ll help you with those.
Or, “Alford, I’m disappointed that, after considerable training, your response time is still the slowest in our group. Let me help you find another position that is a better fit.”
Conduct these interviews at least twice a year and allow about thirty minutes for each session.