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Posted on Jun 11, 2011

Why Do Some Team Members Underperform?

Underachiever - Cartoon of Failing Grade - Franchise HelpWhy do some team members underperform in their jobs while others fill their respective roles and more? It’s easy to spot which team members aren't pulling their weight, but understanding why they are underperforming and how to get them to work up to their potential is another matter.

For any of a number of franchise opportunities or small businesses, the first step in that process is to come to an understanding as to why certain team members don’t reach their potential. To do that, this week we’ll take a look at five typical reasons team members might not measure up.

1. Inadequate Capability -- This is the most obvious reason a new employee may not perform as you would expect. Some people just cannot do the job.

Any new hire can be a risk and some people will do anything to get a job, including "beefing up" their resumes or misrepresenting their skills in some other way. Speaking to a prospective employee for a few minutes during an interview may not tell you everything you need to know about that person, especially if they are better at interviewing than actually working.

To understand whether the employee is underperforming or just not qualified to do the job, you need to look at many factors, including their skills, their tools and their experience. Also, you can issue behavioral assessments and aptitude tests at the beginning of the hiring process to weed out incapable applicants.

2. Poor Job Fit -- Your employee may be qualified for the position you entrusted to them, but they could still be a bad fit for your team because they lack the interests or the behavioral skills to succeed at their position. This is another reason to give any applicants behavioral assessments.

Keep in mind that it is difficult to gauge someone’s personality from an interview, but understanding what kind of thinker they are and where their interests lie can be very helpful in determining whether an employee will be a good fit for your company.

3. Goals and Accountability -- Understanding this aspect of employee underperformance requires a hard look in the mirror. If someone working for your organization does not understand what goals they need to meet and what they are accountable for, they are bound to fail at their position and it is your system that has set them up for failure.

Lack of clarity from management is at the heart of this problem because confusion defaults to inaction. When team members are confused they will do things that are unnecessary or unimportant, or worse, will do nothing at all. The clearer you are with what you expect, the more likely your team is to meet those goals.

One way to make sure that everyone knows what they are responsible for is to set up SMART goals. The acronym SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Action-Oriented, Realistic and Timed. Your team members need to understand the SMART system, especially in terms of goals and accountability. Doing so can help take underperforming employees to their potential as valued and reliable team members.

4. Poor Relationships in the Workplace -- Sociability plays a big part in the workplace environment. While the workplace is not a place to catch up with your friends or act unprofessionally, if someone feels ostracized or underappreciated it can certainly affect their work in a big way. Often, poor relationships at work stem from one of the problems we have already discussed.

If an employee doesn’t have the capacity to do the job or is a poor fit for a position, that may be reflected in the way they get along in the office or, it may be a by-product of underlying personality conflicts. Or some team members may have a poor relationship with management due to fuzzy goals or a lack of accountability.

5. Health and Environment -- An employee’s health and working environment can play a big role in whether someone is living up to their work potential. Over $250 billion is lost by businesses in the USA every year due to health related issues.

With nearly 36% of waking hours spent working, your business is the perfect place to educate your employees about staying healthy. If an employee misses time due to illness, whether mental or physical, or injury, it can cost your company.

These are five of the most powerful reasons team members may underperform, but no matter the cause, when your team is underperforming it is the responsibility of the team’s leader to turn it around.

Brad Sugars is the Founder, Chairman and President of ActionCOACH, the world’s number one business coaching and executive coaching firm, with more than 1,000 offices in 32 countries. ActionCOACH specializes in coaching small to medium size business as well as executive teams and group coaching. You can follow Brad on Facebook and Twitter.

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