Managing people is always challenging. It takes a lot of time and great effort to not only motivate your employees but also to evaluate if something is holding them back and figure out how to get them to be successful. At some point, every manager has had an employee who has required performance management to push them to do better.
Even when you believe you have clearly laid out objectives and performance expectations, not everyone will live up to your standards. Ultimately, you either cut the person loose or the employee leaves of their own accord to pursue opportunities elsewhere. Now here’s the kicker. Later – and often, much later – you learn through the grapevine or social media that the person has become a solid contributor or big producer with another organization and in the worst case, with a competitor.
And at that point, for a manager, the real soul-searching begins. It’s so tempting to say it was all just due to circumstances or simply that person’s failure to grasp the realities of the task or challenge. But the honest manager will ask: What was my part in this failed relationship? The truth is, perhaps there was a better way to evaluate what was preventing the employee from being successful and to motivate them to do their best.
That’s where the idea of “Head – Heart – Hand” comes in. It’s a way of evaluating why an employee is not performing. It could be that they don’t know how to do the job (head), that they are not motivated or passionate about the job (heart), or that they don’t have the skills necessary to do the job (hand.)
Get the Head in The Game
Today, virtually any team will have members of varying backgrounds; indeed, diversity of background or even personality types is generally assumed to be an asset in the building of a team. However, there’s a hidden risk involved in this assumption.
Long gone are the days when employee training programs brought individuals “up to speed” on the particulars of individual tasks or job requirements. These items often get papered over in a job description that really describes a baseline for performance, not an individual manager’s expectations. So, the first question you as manager need to ask is: Does the person have the knowledge base to accomplish the task? Their success is dependent on whether or not they know the steps or stages and gates in the progress of the project. In short, does the employee understand what they need to do?
If the answer to why your employee is not succeeding is that they don’t have the know-how, then the problem can be put in the “head” category.
Without the actual knowledge base to perform the duties assigned, there is no way an employee can be successful. Therefore, if you determine that the employee’s lack of success is a “head” problem, find ways to help them acquire new skills. Perhaps another employee could mentor them. If the technical skills need work, they may need additional training or online skill acquisition. As a manager, your ability to nudge people toward constant skill acquisition will not only improve your team but will instill the awareness that you are genuinely interested in improving the mental edge of everyone on your team.
Is the Heart All In?
Let’s face it. We’ve all had days when our heart just wasn’t in it. Those are the days you lead with your feet and expect the heart to play catch-up. However, too many of those days is an indicator of a deeper problem. It’s not enough that a manager is able to sense when a person’s heart isn’t in the game. It takes knowing why. If your employee seems unmotivated to do a task or isn’t passionate about their job, this can be diagnosed as a “heart” issue.
Sometimes a “heart” issue is caused by personal reasons that can’t be addressed in the workplace. Other times, the employee is lacking motivation or is afraid they aren’t up to the task. This is where a deeper knowledge of motivation and psychology comes in to play. But first, begin with the ask. Sometimes, lagging performance is simply an indicator of a deeper personal issue, often fear-based, the person is simply reluctant to admit, even to themselves. This can be especially true of younger employees who tend to see their careers in a more holistic sense.
Beyond situational reasons, getting people to throw their heart into your vision often involves knowing different personality types and how to motivate them. As a manager, familiarize yourself with the various Briggs-Myers personality types and make certain you know the profile of every person on your team. Your ability to make people feel valued is dependent on how adept you are at finding what motivates a particular individual. For some, it can be as simple as the knowledge that their contribution is valued; others may require more personal visibility or less managerial oversight.
The Hands Need Constant Practice
Sometimes an employee has the knowledge to do a task and is motivated to try but just isn’t successful. After all, a novice could watch a television show with instructions on how to construct a treehouse and may be passionate about creating one, but they don’t have the skills to build it. In addition to knowledge and drive, a person needs the actual skill set to complete a job. If the person doesn’t have the proficiency they need, this is a “hand” problem.
If your employee has not mastered certain tasks, he or she may require you to model the behavior you expect. Better still, have your top performer or best teacher do the modeling or instruction. This is where practice comes in.
Having the adequate equipment and training can mean more than just knowing what to do, when. To have a deeper understanding of the processes in a way that makes them comprehensible to your customer and allows for proper troubleshooting, your employee may need the exposure that only studying plant operations provides.
Head – Heart – Hand
When an employee is letting you down in their job performance, evaluate whether they “get” it. You cannot elicit a person’s best unless they are mentally prepared to perform, have committed their hearts to the effort, and know through practice what to do and when. As a manager, know the three H’s (Head—Heart—Hand) and use them in your daily interaction with your team. Their success—and ultimately your company’s—depends on it.