Shouting Doesn’t Make it Clear
I’m learning to play golf. It is a very slow process. Last weekend as I had one of those horribly bad rounds my husband, who is an incredibly patient man, began to get frustrated. He knew I could do better, but I just couldn’t pull out of my slump. He began giving me instruction and when I still didn’t improve, he gave me the instruction again; only louder. He did this two or three more times until he was actually shouting at me to make a correction in my swing.
At that point I looked up and explained to him that if I understood what to correct I would have done it already, and if I haven’t responded to his direction yet, I probably didn’t understand what he meant. I explained to him that telling me the same instruction with a louder voice was getting us nowhere. He smiled and my game continued to sink further into the vortex of golf hell.
What I realized during that golf game was that managers often make the same mistake that my husband made. Managers want to help their staff get better results and therefore they provide instruction. However; if the staff member does not understand the instruction or is not capable of following the instruction, the manager needs to change the message, not just say the same thing louder.
Performance issues are most often the result of either a lack of skill, a lack of knowledge, inappropriate conditions, or a poor attitude. The first three can be corrected, the last one most likely cannot.
When a staff member is struggling the first thing you have to ask yourself is does this person have the ability (skills) to do the job. Lack of skill is certainly the problem with my golf game and until I become more proficient through time and practice, I won’t get better. Professionally, people are often hired for a job and then additional tasks are placed upon them. Until the person has had enough training and experience in the new task, they will continue to struggle.
If you determine that the person does have the skill to perform the task, ask yourself, does this person have the knowledge to perform the task? More specifically, does the person have all the information? Have you provided all the details necessary? Or, did you inadvertently keep some important facts from the individual? Don’t assume the person knows everything that you know about the project.
If the person does have the skills, and does have the knowledge, you next have to ask yourself is the person in an appropriate environment in which to perform. If a staff member works best in an isolated area and you have them trying to perform in a cubicle with noise and activity all around, they will struggle. If they need noise and activity and you have isolated them, they will find it difficult to stay on task.
Once you have determined that they do have the appropriate skills, you have given them all necessary information, the environment is conducive to their success, and they are still not performing, it may be a motivation issue. In other words, the person just doesn’t care enough to give it their all.
A motivation issue is much more challenging. Determining the cause of the issue can be time consuming and costly. Depending on the particular employee, it may not be worth the effort. If you decide not to spend the time and effort in figuring out why the employee is not motivated, you will need to rethink if the person is truly a fit for the job. There may be another position in your organization that would motivate them to perform.
The point is, until you have gone through these steps you don’t know what the problem is. Giving your instructions louder isn’t going to help. Help your staff pull out of their slump, not by shouting, but by providing great leadership; because loud does not necessarily mean clear.