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Dealing with Under Performing Team Members

Published: May 17th, 2023 06:24 pmBy Nirmal Kumar

Some Team leaders complain that they have underperforming team members. Is getting rid of them the only solution?

The Underperforming Employee

“There is nothing like an underperforming employee. It is only that the person does not have a job that she loves”. This is how a very trusted leader and close friend spoke about non-performing members on teams.

To illustrate his point, he gave me the example of an employee in his previous organization. He was the CEO.

He noticed that Arun, one of the employees, was least interested in his job. He was about 4 years into Software Testing.

Arun would leave well in time at the end of the day. It was evident that he hated the job and just wanted to get away from it asap.

The CEO noticed that Arun liked to solve crossword puzzles. He was a kind of expert on it. He also was an avid reader and a blogger.

Once during the lunch break, when Arun was solving the crossword, the CEO happened to be walking by. The crossword was almost complete. The CEO complimented him. Arun’s face lit up.

“Looks like you are a wordsmith. Would you be interested in helping out with starting a fortnightly corporate newsletter?”

Arun immediately agreed. The CEO made the necessary arrangements.

The newsletter was one of its kind. It was widely read and appreciated by one and all. Everyone would eagerly wait for the next one. Arun felt a sense of pride.

Soon, Arun was writing for the Company’s website, which started getting noticed. It got more hits in a month than in the previous 3 years put together.

The Offer

The CEO made Arun an offer: would he be interested in starting a Digital Media outreach (DMO) initiative and creating the Digital Media Marketing Team (DMMT) for the company?

This was an unprecedented move. A software tester creating the DMMT? Unheard of! But Arun jumped at it.

The CEO outlined the policy framework and the Job Description. Arun put his heart into the job. He even drafted a Policy and Procedures Document for the DMMT based on the CEO’s guidelines.

With the help of the HRD, Arun put the DMMT in place. He was a natural with people management. The company’s SMO was engaging many new prospects.

Arun was working as the de-facto head of the DMMT, even without a designation. When the occasion required, he had no hesitation in putting in long hours.

The Promotion

A few months later, the CEO formally designated Arun as the Head of the DMMT.

Arun is still with the company after more than 2 years since the role-switch. He is always grateful and appreciative of the unprecedented initiative taken by the CEO. He has found a new and fulfilling calling!

The Team Management Wheel

When I mapped Arun’s case to the Team Management Wheel model and the Team Roles associated with it, I realized he had been performing a job which was the exact opposite of what he was suited for. The CEO, a perceptive leader, had recognized this. He had taken a gamble. It paid off and everybody won!

The Team Management Wheel model had been developed by Margerison-McCann almost 3 decades ago. Yet, it is still relevant today.

The Team Management Wheel also roughly corresponds to the Left Brain-Right Brain model of mapping people as per their nature and proclivities. I had discussed this concept in an earlier article.

Does your team have underperforming employees? Are you willing to give them a job they would love?

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

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