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Low Performer or Potential Performer?

They negatively impact workplace morale.

They increase the work burden on the rest of the team.

They cost your company a lot in lost revenue and lost productivity.

These are just some of the effects low performers have on your organization. Are low performers a complete lost cause, or are they potential performers? Are they worth the time required to develop them into a contributing member of your team?

Unfortunately, I have had to deal with plenty of low performers, and as a result of that experience, I have developed a checklist to evaluate whether you are dealing with a low or a potential performer.

1. Attitude – Attitude is the start of everything.

If your low performer’s attitude was negative and, after coaching them on it, they have made significant strides in improving it during the next 90 days, you probably have a potential performer on your team. Attitude is 100% within our control. Making steps to improve it are definitely steps in the right direction.

2. Areas of Opportunity – Is the desire to improve evident?

Let’s say I recently coached my employee on their lack of activity. I clearly laid out the expectation, and they acknowledged the importance of hitting that activity number. Over the next week, this employee takes the initiative to keep me updated on their progress; they ask for my advice and put in extra time to achieve their goals. That is a potential performer. Low performers are simply missing (staying under the radar) between one-on-ones, showing no progress.

3. Performance & Core Values

This one is simple. If your employee has low performance but high core values, they are a potential performer. If they have low performance and low core values, they are a low performer. Period.

4. Win Your Play

Be the best at what you can control in life. Here are some examples of “plays” and whether they are won.

Low Performers

High Performers

Emails to clients are riddled with typos

Communication is polished and professional 100% of the time

Attendance is consistently an issue

Attendance is never an issue

Excuses for problems exist in large numbers

Suggested solutions to problems are ever-present

Unprepared for meetings and disengaged

Consistently prepared for meetings and exhibits high levels of engagement.

Unwilling to come in early or work late in order to meet goals

Regularly works extra hours

5. Coach, Coach, Change

I am a basketball coach and consistently coach my point guard on the importance of protecting the ball and not turning it over to the other team. If my point guard continues to turn the ball over, they will take a seat on the bench and cease playing for my team. Coaching must lead to positive changes in performance, if it doesn’t, you must make a change. (See related: Coach, Coach, Change)

If you coach your employee and they make positive adjustments, you are dealing with a potential performer. If they do not make positive adjustments, you are dealing with a low performer.

If, after reviewing this list, you believe you have a low performer (not a potential performer) on your team, it makes sense to develop an exit strategy for that employee.

If you believe you have a potential performer on your team, your continued coaching is probably worth the time and effort. However, you must set a timeline for their improved development because, after all, a potential performer is still a low performer. Set a target date for when you expect that person to be a producing team member, and if they have not made the required improvements, develop an exit strategy for that employee. (Coach, coach, change)

Need help with coaching to activity, strategy, or skill? As a top ten leadership training company, we can help.


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