Poor project performance happens all the time, which threatens quality, budget, and team morale. When it occurs, the project manager must deal with it as quickly as possible so the issue can be addressed accordingly without losing momentum. The thing is, often the issue can be addressed. Thus the quality and the budget would not be affected, but the team morale already suffers.
A good project manager should understand how to handle poor performance while maintaining or, even, increasing team morale. It would require some practice and in-depth understanding of team psychology and advanced communication techniques, which can be done with mindfulness and awareness.
First things first, addressing the poor performance issue with the team member should be done with an understanding that people do make mistakes and they deserve to correct their behavior. Don’t judge them by saying anything like this, “You just don’t get it, do you?”
Be kind. Acknowledge early on that people do make mistakes and any mistake can be corrected. Use a positive tone throughout the conversation. Imagine you are being in their shoes.
Second, once they have agreed to work on their “second chance” to correct the poor performance, ask them to perform it in front of you as a “rehearsal” first before they return to their desk and do it. Include someone who is more experienced in that particular task to provide honest and respectful feedback. Again, be positive.
A project manager’s place is not to humiliate team members. Instead, your job is encouraging the best possible performance and motivating them to maintain the most optimized quality. Balancing between being a subtle cheerleader and an enforcer of high quality can be quite contradictory, but it must be done with tactfulness and positivity.
Third, provide constructive feedback after the second chance is performed. Use positive and encouraging words instead of judgemental vocabularies after the correction is done. If it has not reached the agreed high standard, give another chance for correction. Remind the team member that third time is usually a charm and that we all are lifelong learners.
Fourth, encourage strong working relationships with other team members so those with poor performance can learn without feeling insecurity around those with good performance. This can be fostered with after-office positive and relaxing activities. Boosting camaraderie can be done without spending a fortune, like hiking and outdoor picnic. During relaxing activities, you can share case studies and best practices of similar teams.
Fifth, incorporate play-based feedback and training sessions. Today, gamification has become so popular that teams compete to obtain high scores to “beat” the other teams. Consider using apps for motivation and goal tracking. Make working a happy occasion and completing projects a game. Review several apps for such purposes and choose the one that is suitable for the project. Whenever possible, consider using the apps yourself, so team members can emulate the new habit and incorporate it in their tasks.
At last, poor performance should not be an obstacle to achieving good results. People do make mistakes, and nothing is irreparable. A good project manager understands this clearly and lives by it.
By Nikhil Daddikar, Co-Founder, Celoxis Technologies
About Celoxis: Celoxis is world’s leading online PPM software, rated among 3 best project management software tools in the world and is deployed by more than 2000+ customers globally, from mid-sized enterprises to Fortune 100 companies, across industry verticals. To know more visit www.celoxis.com.