“Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown”. This Shakespearean proverb applies perfectly to a team leader whose team is underperforming. An underperforming team is always a pain for the team leader; managing such a team and getting them to perform is no easy task, especially when dealing with adults who have their own minds. They may produce negative results if pushed too hard, and they may produce negative results if pampered. The remuneration of team leaders is usually linked to the performance of the team. How does a team leader manage a team that is underperforming and get them to the point where they can perform better?
On most occasions, not all members of the underperforming team are actually performing poorly; a few may be performing well while the rest are not, affecting the team’s performance and putting additional pressure on both the team’s leader and the performing team members. If this situation is not properly managed, the members of the performing team may become discouraged.
The team leader must now identify the reasons for some team members’ underperformance in order to help them get back on track.
A lack of proper communication between team members, team leaders, and team members, individual mistakes, work-related stress, personal issues, toxic work environment, incentive-related issue, ignorance, unclear expectation, confusion, and so on are some of the causes of underperformance.
Whatever the reason, the team leader is charged with turning the team’s performance around and assisting them in meeting the required target. However, the team leader must be able to detect poor performance before it becomes a major threat to the team and the organization. Some signs that someone in a team is not playing their roles effectively include loss of interest in work, disinterest in the organization’s goals, bad behavior, lack of team spirit, and so on.
Some of the steps the team leader had to take to ensure that all team members were on board are as follows:
- Recognize that your situation is not unique to you; there are many other team leaders who are facing or have faced similar challenges. This realization allows you to seek assistance from other team leaders and learn what actions they took when they were in a similar situation.
- Look for assistance outside of the organization, perhaps from mentors and team leaders you admire.
- Try to avoid negative thinking as much as possible. It is very easy to begin thinking you may have been caused, or to begin self-blaming; however, this situation only leads to frustration; instead, consider what part of the situation you can easily handle and begin from there.
- You may want to seek advice from your manager or supervisor, knowing that your manager was once a team leader and may have dealt with similar situations in the past. Discuss your efforts to resolve the situation and inquire about any suggestions they may have for you.
- Avoid being defensive in response to your manager’s reviews or feedback from your teams. It is very easy to become defensive and angry about reviews and feedback, especially when they are negative and you believe you have done everything possible; however, such an attitude only demonstrates your frustration and inability to handle challenges.
- Take a step back and conduct a self-evaluation to determine how effective or ineffective your leadership style is, your relationship with individual team members, and whether the situation necessitates a different type of leadership style.
- Conduct a team assessment, hold a discussion with the team members who are succeeding, and ask them to share their success strategy with the group. Have a one-on-one conversation with the underperforming team members to learn about their strengths and weaknesses, as well as how you can help them in areas of weakness.
- Establish separate goals for the team, assign targets to individual team members, and compensate/applaud minor contributions made by team members.
- Maintain regular communication with the team; communication is critical at this point because you never know what information will be useful.
10. Hold regular meetings to check in on progress, answer questions, and gather feedback from your team.
If, after all of these efforts, you still discover a team member who is struggling to improve their performance, that team member may simply be a square peg in a round hole. You might want to suggest another job function for such a member based on his or her area of strength that you discovered during your work with him or her.