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It’s not you, it’s me — management version

Management of employees is one of the most difficult parts of any leadership position. Even I’ve found myself let down from time to time.

But sometimes it’s not them — it’s us. Leaders don’t often see themselves as having a role in the poor performance of their employees; however, it’s important to remember that this is a two-way street.

Start at the beginning

When I had a team of 15 recruiters reporting to me, I was pretty disappointed most of the time. I hired people I thought were amazing, and I was excited about the potential. But soon I found myself having to constantly hire and fire.

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I assumed that because recruiting came very naturally to me, it’d be like that for other nice, friendly people. I wasn’t grasping how hard most people find recruiting, and I wasn’t setting clear expectations so we could figure out if it was an activity or aptitude issue.

If you are having issues with employees or retention, look at your hiring process and just how clear you are about what they need to do to succeed. Make sure you hire someone who can do the job and, more importantly, wants to do the job—even after they understand the challenges.

Set management expectations

If you’ve cleaned up your hiring process and you’re hiring all the right people, but things still go south—what is going on? Take a long hard look in the mirror. Are you setting clear and attainable expectations? Does everyone on your team know exactly what is expected of them?

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A major reason why people fail to perform to expected levels is because the desired results were never clearly communicated to them. Are employees sure what is required on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis? Do they know the metrics you use to measure success? Do they know what tools and materials they need to use?

In short, have you done everything you need to in order to educate them, provide them with a framework for their job, and support them getting to success?

How to fix it

To ensure your employees know exactly what is expected, you need to clearly define what success and failure look like. Figure out what you need them to do every day and what numbers or metrics you expect to see. Then put it into a document, sit down with each employee, and make sure they understand it.

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In doing so, you have leveled the playing field. If someone isn’t performing from this point forward, you know it wasn’t because of your communication or management.

Next, conduct regular management check-ins so you know if they have everything they need to succeed.

A great first step is to ask, “Do you have everything you need to hit these expectations? Are there any tools, training, or support I can provide? What factors might hinder your success?”

Is your management realistic?

Having unrealistic expectations for either activity or results does nothing more than set the stage for serious problems. Even if you have communicated your desires and given them the tools to succeed, people are still just people. You can’t expect someone to make 200 sales calls a day or grow sales 25% day-over-day. Make sure what you want is humanly possible and reasonable.

If you aren’t sure, ask. Call some of your networking connections or another expert to consult. Talk to your employees—and make sure you take the time to truly see it from their perspective.

Lastly, if you have done all of the above and someone is still not performing, you have a pretty clear indication they either can’t or won’t hit their goals. If they don’t want to, it isn’t much of a loss—let them go take up space at someone else’s company. If they can’t, you might need to consider moving them to another team, reducing your expectations, or letting them go.

Keep the No. 1 rule in mind: Always set and communicate expectations if you want employees to be top performers.

Rikka Brandon is the founder and Chief Executive Recruiter of Building Gurus, a boutique executive search and consulting firm that works exclusively with building product manufacturers and distributors to find, hire, and retain top building products talent.

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