Poor performance sucks the life-blood out of a team, function or organisation. People simply stop trying. They go through the motions – on automatic pilot. They do what they need to do. But imagination, passion, creativity, personality – have all long packed their bags and left. For many work has become just a job. The aim is to get through the day without getting shouted at, or being blamed for getting something wrong. People set low expectations and then live down to them. So as a leader, what are you going to do? Join in with the overall gloom? Hide in meetings and pretend the problem does not exist? Or face into it and begin to turn the energy and tide around? Here are 3 powerful ways to shake the organisation out of its sleep walk.

1. Run listening sessions. The first step in fixing any problem is to shake its hand. Accept it. Look the problem in the eyes and take it on. But you can’t solve it on your own. You’ve got to bring people together. Let them vent. Hear what they have to say. And then start asking them, how can we change the situation? What can you do locally? What can you do personally? And how can I help? Talk openly about what people say behind closed doors. This takes all the oxygen away from moaning and re-directs it to how will we change our own luck? The leadership habit: be bold. Catch the monster of mediocrity by the tail and don’t let it run rampant in your business. You can’t slay this dragon on your own. You need the blood, sweat and toil of all employees. Set them free to make things happen. Give them license to play.

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2. Lift your Managers out of the weeds. When things get tough, too many Managers go missing in action. They’re trying to do their best. Out there with customers. In the field resolving problems and in wall-to-wall meetings. Problem is they’re not where they need to be – with their team. They’re not fully present. They’re not making time to encourage, to support, to coach, give feedback and help team members prioritise. Anyone can lead when the going is good. The hallmark of a 22-carat leader is what they do when the going is tough. The leadership habit: help your managers to re-set their priorities. Encourage them to set aside at least 50% of their time for their team. Otherwise, why do they have the word ‘Manager’ in their job title? Making time for people is vital if you have any hope of turning poor performance around. Without ‘tough love’ conversations – what other tools do you have in your repertoire?

3. Stick with it, old habits don’t change over-night. When colleagues have given-up and are turning up each day with the mindset of ‘playing not to lose’ – this malaise has hardened over months. These ingrained habits are not impossible to change, but it takes persistence and guts to dismantle them. If you really want to accelerate slow performance – you have to mean it. Colleagues will be watching you and observing your every move. If they can see you’re on to the next shiny new thing – performance will slip-back to where it was. The leadership habit: persistence is vastly under-rated. We all want quick fixes, but without putting in the effort. You’re trying to defy the laws of human behaviour. Since when was anything worth achieving handed to you on a plate? If you want to break habits and change the culture you’ve got to be deeply-disciplined and fully-committed. Do it half-hearted and you’d have been better off not starting.

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