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Diagnosing and fixing performance problems June 6, 2008

Posted by rickbron in Bronder On People, Diagnosing performance problems, Fixing performance problems, Performance issues.
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p5130012.jpg Want to fix performance problems? The Big Dogz know how to diagnose and then fix performance problems.


Performance problems are caused by one of two major dimensions of human behavior — ability or willingness. Ability is knowing how something could be done; and willingness is the desire to do it. Willingness can be either a confidence issue or a motivation issue. Most managers attribute a performance problem with willingness or attitude. We tend to think this person has a bad attitude and does not want to do the job. Studies have shown that for the large majority of the time, performance problems are a matter of not being able to do the job. So what do the Big Dogz do when they encounter a performance problem?


First they check ability. You can do this by asking some of the following questions:

  1. What process are you using to get this done?
  2. What have you accomplished so far?
  3. What obstacles have you encountered? What are you doing about them?
  4. Who have you talked with concerning this task?
  5. What tools are you using?
  6. How long do you think this task might take?


Explore the person’s awareness of the task and how to get it done. Answers to these types of questions will give you insight into how much this person knows about this task. If there is a knowledge gap, figure out how to close the gap. Will you provide personal coaching? Pair them up with a subject matter expert? Give them a step by step set of instructions? I can hear some of the concerns some of you may be having. Shouldn’t they already know how to do what I ask them? Well, perhaps they should; I am not going to argue that point. The real issue is you have an employee not performing and it is costing you money. It is in your best interests to get this person up to speed and productive.


Once the Big Dogz are confident that the person knows how to do the task, they check for willingness by asking questions like these:

  1. How do you feel about this assignment?
  2. How would you assess your skill level to complete this assignment?
  3. Is this assignment something that motivates you?
  4. How confident are you that you can complete this task?
  5. What benefit do you see for yourself in completing this task?
  6. What help do you need to get his done?


Probing for confidence or motivation issues will allow you to quickly solve the problem. Encourage those who have a low confidence level. Help them gain confidence by giving them constructive feedback on their progress. If the issue is a motivational one, then look at why you gave this task to this particular person. If you thought it was a task that would motivate them, explore further why this is a problem. It could be that you misread the motivation needs and gave them an assignment that was de-motivating. Sometimes, you need to be honest with an employee and let them know that they will do the task whether they like it or not. It has to be done and they are the one who will do it. I always encourage managers to use personal power rather than position power, but sometimes you need to do that.


The Big Dogz know that the first place to investigate a performance problem is ability, then to look at willingness. Take a closer look at some of your performance issues to see if ability is the root. The ability issue is easier to fix and has a long term benefit for both you and the employee.