While I was coaching an underperforming employee today, he admitted that he knew that he wasn’t performing to this best. And then he went on to admit that on a personal level, life as a whole was just not the greatest for him right now: he was dealing with family issues, financial issues, and a general lack of direction in life.
I told him that we could all definitely tell he was going through something. He wasn’t his usual joking self for the last couple of months and his attitude at work hasn’t been the best for team morale either. In fact, several of his teammates had complained to me about his attitude, constant complaining, and them having to bug him to get his tasks done.
My advice to him was simple…it may feel like there are a lot of thing swirling around you that you can’t control, and if you focus on those things, then you’ll feel even more out of control. Instead, focus on the things that you can control and use them to help bolster you against the things that you can’t control.
For example, the family issues I knew he couldn’t control. And the lacking in direction, I know isn’t an easy thing to work through at his age (he’s in his his early/mid-20s). But the financial and work performance issues I knew he could affect, and in fact he could address them at the same time.
He is an hourly worker. He works at our office 4 days a week and at another company 2 days a week. At our office, he is scheduled to work 32 hours a week, but he has authorization to work up to 40.
So the simple solution to him not getting his assignments done on time was to work more hours. I suggested that instead of working four 8-hour days, that hen instead work four 10-hour days. That would give him 8 more hours to actually get work done, and it would boost his paycheck by 25% as well. So, it would also potentially get me and the rest of his teammates off his back, and also provide him some extra cash which would allow him to not worry as much about his finances. He’d resolve two issues at once.
From the look on his face, I could tell that he was thinking about it. It was definitely a solution that had never occurred to him. He just saw more work as, well, more hours that he had to work.
It’s amazing how when we’re in the midst of a whirlwind, it’s easy for us to get dizzied by everything going on around us. When instead we should be focusing on finding a strong grounding factor that will enable us to weather the storm. By focusing on what is stable–that which we can control–we can use that as a base to push ahead and get through the turmoil going on around us.
My lesson in all of this: if I see a someone floundering, reach out earlier. Don’t wait until they are already sinking to provide guidance–at that point they’re already weakened and demoralized, and you’ll have to pull that much harder to get them out.
We’ll see if my pep talk and advice help him to pull himself out and hopefully even pull ahead…