Category Performance Management

How to handle underperformance – Productively!

Most people want to be successful in their job.

Consider the following suggestions when you observe performance that is not meeting your expectations:

  • Make sure you and the individual have the exact expectations and goals, as a mutual understanding of performance objectives is critical to managing performance.

Read why High Performance is not the same as High Potential.

  • How:

Schedule a conversation with the person and make sure you have enough time not to be rushed

Ensure that you have a mutual understanding of the employee’s performance objectives

          • Ask the person to describe what they are trying to do and how they view their performance. DO NOT interrupt and allow the employee to talk.

Listen carefully and thoughtfully to the person’s view of the situation.

          • Paraphrase what you heard the person say to ensure you understand
          • Ask the person to repeat what they said, but in different words

A Poor Performer Costs Money, But If You Like Them, It Will Cost You $76,500* – Two Approaches To Cut That Cost

Once they are finished, consider what they said and then share your expectations and perceptions.

Discuss any discrepancies between your expectation and what the employee has told you by:

          • Be specific about your expectations for goals and objectives that the employee is not meeting.
          • Listening carefully to the person’s ideas and perspectives and then determining if there is a way to improve the person’s work.
          • If the poor performance results from a lack of skill, knowledge, or experience, give specific direction to provide coaching and development opportunities.
          • If the poor performance results from conflicting priorities, clarify your preferences for this person.

Once you have a shared understanding of the situation, refocus the conversation on the future, not the past.

Ask the person for their ideas and solutions for closing any performance gaps.

Agree on the steps to be taken and a time frame for each step

Read about performance management fails & what to do about them

Follow up on the performance regularly by scheduling meetings and informally with regular check-ins.

What Is Heck Is Organizational Health? 10 Questions Answered by Steve

Question: What is organizational health?

Organizational health is essentially about making a company function effectively by building a cohesive leadership team, establishing real clarity among those leaders, communicating that clarity to everyone within the organization, and putting in place just enough structure to reinforce that clarity going forward. Simply put, an organization is healthy when it is whole, consistent and complete when its management, operations and culture are unified. Healthy organizations outperform their counterparts, are free of politics and confusion and provide an environment where star performers never want to leave.

Read about the ‘First Team’ Model

Question: Why does organizational health offer a company its greatest opportunity for competitive advantage?

Addressing organizational health provides an incredible advantage to companies because, ultimately, health becomes the multiplier of intelligence. The healthier an organization is, the more its intelligence it can tap into and actually use. Most organizations only exploit a fraction of the knowledge, experience and intellectual capital available to them. The healthy ones tap into all of it. Addressing health helps companies to make smarter decisions faster, without politics and confusion.

How healthy is your organization? take the free survey!

Question: Why are so many of today’s smartest companies losing to underdogs?

I have found that some of the underdogs are more apt to shed their preconceived notions about running a business and allow themselves to gain an advantage around a different set of principles. The key ingredient for improvement and success is not access to knowledge; it is really about the environment’s health.

I have worked with many great, healthy companies led by men and women who attended relatively modest colleges, people who would admit to being just a little above average in intellectual capacity. When those companies made wise decisions that set them apart from their competition, journalists and industry analysts incorrectly attributed their intellectual prowess’s success. The truth of the matter was that the underdogs weren’t smarter than their competitors; they simply tapped into the adequate intelligence they had and didn’t allow dysfunction, ego, and politics to get in the way. Conversely, smart organizations don’t seem to have any greater chance of getting healthier by virtue of their intelligence. In fact, the reverse may actually be true because leaders who pride themselves on expertise and knowledge often struggle to acknowledge their flaws and learn from their peers. They typically aren’t as easily open and transparent with one another, which delays recovery from mistakes and fuels politics and confusion.

Question: Having worked with companies for so many years, is there anything that still surprises you?

Yes, I still get surprised by what I see in companies I work with, even after all these years. Some of that surprise is just a function because no two people, and thus, no two organizations are exactly alike. The nuances are interesting and keep me on my toes. But ironically, the biggest surprise I get is being reminded repeatedly that even the most sophisticated companies struggle with the simplest things. I guess it’s hard for me to believe that the concepts I write and speak about are universal. I don’t know that I’ll ever come to terms with that completely.

Question: Why are so few companies skilled at overcoming dysfunction?

Leaders often complain about worker productivity, politics, turnover and other signs of dysfunction but feel addressing the problem is either a hopeless endeavour or too touchy-feely. Even if the leader understands the need to address dysfunction, more often than not, they tend to naturally gravitate right back to the parts of the business they feel most comfortable with (usually in areas like strategy, finance, marketing, etc.).

Question: What’s “the wuss factor,” and how do you overcome it?

The “wuss factor” happens when a team member or leader constantly balks when it’s time to call someone out on their behaviour or performance. Many leaders who struggle with this will try to convince themselves that their reluctance is a product of their kindness; they just don’t want to make their employees feel bad. But an honest reassessment of their motivation will allow them to admit that they are the ones who don’t want to feel bad and that failing to hold someone accountable is ultimately an act of selfishness. After all, there is nothing noble about withholding information that can help an employee improve. Eventually, that employee’s lack of improvement will come back to haunt him in a performance review or when he is let go.

How healthy is your organization? take the free survey!

Question: What’s the best way to run an effective meeting?

To answer that question fairly, it is important to be clear about what kind of meeting you are in. I find that all too often, leaders have one meeting a week where they put all issues into one big discussion, usually called the staff meeting. They combine administrative issues and tactical decisions, creative brainstorming and strategic analysis, and personal discussions into one exhausting meeting. The fact is the human brain isn’t meant to process so many disparate topics in one sitting. This exhausts people. For a meeting to be effective, there needs to be greater clarity and focus, which means there needs to be different kinds of meetings for different kinds of focus. So, being clear about what kind of meeting you are in helps everyone understand the purpose and what they can expect for outcomes. The four meetings include:

  • Daily Check-ins – administrative information exchange
  • Weekly Staff – tactical issues and goal-related activities
  • Ad hoc Strategic- strategic meeting that takes on one single big topic
  • Quarterly Off-site Review – developmental meeting and review of business fundamentals

Question: How can someone who’s not in the upper levels of their organization make an impact on its health?

While it’s true that no one can influence an organization like the leader and that without a leader’s commitment and involvement, organizational health cannot become a reality, there are many things that employees deeper in an organization can do to make health more likely. First, they have to speak truth upward in the organization. Most leaders, even the struggling ones, want to get better. When an employee is courageous and wise enough to come to them with respect, kindness and honesty, most leaders will be grateful. Without honest upward feedback, a leader cannot get better. Beyond that, people deeper in an organization can focus on making their own departments healthier and not getting too distracted or discouraged by their inability to change things outside of their “circle of influence,” as Stephen Covey says. By focusing on their own departments and their own areas of influence, they provide others with an example to follow.

Question: What’s something I can do tomorrow morning to get started?

The first thing anyone can do immediately to begin the process of making their organizations healthier is, to begin with, themselves and their team. A leader has to understand and embrace the concept of being vulnerable, which inspires trust in the leadership team. That trust is the foundation for teamwork, which is one of the cornerstones of organizational health. If a leader cannot be vulnerable, cannot admit his or her mistakes, shortcomings or weaknesses, others will not be vulnerable and organizational health becomes impossible.

Question: What’s the first step any company can take to start achieving organizational health?

The first step in becoming healthy is to get the leadership team together, offsite, for a couple of days of focused, rigorous, honest discussion. Nothing touchy-feely, but rather a practical session around everything from how the team behaves to how it will succeed to what its most important priority needs to be. That first session will provide the momentum a team needs to lead the organization to health.

How healthy is your organization? take the free survey!

Working from Home is a Wonderful Option – But Remember Proximity Equals Your Success

“City’s [of Calgary] 5,000 inside workers will keep splitting their work time between home and the office … for the foreseeable future.’

– CBC headline


Some employers will need to, or insist on, all employees reporting to a workplace. And others will move to a 100% distributed and remote workforce. But, like the City of Calgary, many will land somewhere between those two points and on a blended model.

There is no way on earth that our post-pandemic workforce won’t look the same as before the pandemic. This isn’t a prediction; it is a reality.

NYU business professor and author Scott Galloway warns that a distributed workforce will create unintended consequences. He is concerned about an “erosion of empathy.” He means that as people spend less time with one another in person, we can lose the opportunity to engage with people who have different backgrounds and experiences from our own.

On the good side, our employees spent the last year learning how to work in new ways. It’s unlikely all of them will want an immediate return to the pre-pandemic workplace. Some may thrive in the freedom, productivity and flexibility that remote work offers. Others may want to work in a more traditional office atmosphere.

But be forewarned that, on the other hand, there will likely be a cost to your career and lifetime earnings because you are not proximate to decisions makers and power.

Read More About Invisible Bosses

Proximity bias is real. Proximity bias is the idea that employees with close physical proximity to their team and company leaders will be perceived as better workers and ultimately find more success in the workplace than their remote counterparts. That bias often looks like on-site employees having access to better perks and getting more time with executives. In contrast, remote employees may get left out of meetings, inadvertently silenced on calls, and potentially paid less than their co-located peers.[i]

In a recent podcast interview with Donny Deutsch, Professor Galloway commented that people need to, or should make every effort to, be in the office as much as they can.

Why? Because your career trajectory is a function of proximity. He says that for every promotion or job opening, at least 2 or 3 people are fully qualified for that job. The person who gets that job is often the one with the best relationship with the decider.

Fundamentally these relationships are a function of proximity.

While some companies are still getting used to hybrid and remote arrangements, you can take control by negating any bias by asking for face-to-face mentoring, intentional communication and self-advocacy.

To limit the impact that proximity bias may have on your career, here are some actions that you can try:

Being in the office as often as you can.

If you can’t be physically present, be visible through regular video conferences with your team and boss.

Ask for work or projects to support your partnership with your boss.

Read More About Partnering With Your Boss

Increase your visibility by joining the meetings early and active on your designated work channels.

Value and encourage high-quality internal communications and listening campaigns, including sharing constructive feedback.

Endorse, praise and celebrate your co-workers and their achievements.

This will make a difference in your well-being and engagement levels and, most certainly, in your career.



I’ll Do Anything For You But I Won’t Do That!


Did you take on a leadership position for the right reasons? 

There are many reasons you might put yourself in a position of Leadership. Whatever they are, you may not be willing to be what you need to do.

And that may come at the risk of catastrophic results. 


What Leaders Won’t Do

I’ve always been amazed at what leaders will do for their organizations in my career. So many will spend countless late nights working, endure long and gruelling travel schedules, and even sacrifice their financial resources, all to increase the likelihood, even slightly, that their enterprises will succeed.

Sadly, these efforts often come at the expense of their health, families, and sanity.

The thing that amazes me more than what leaders will do is what they WON’T do: And that is to endure emotional discomfort at work.

Though this may sound innocuous, there is nothing trivial about it. 

This determination to avoid emotional discomfort is the single most costly and surprising Leadership trI’veI’ve witnessed in business during my career.

Let me offer an analogy – Imagine that someone spilled a coffee in the lobby of your building. No one would call the CEO down to clean it up. But when a political or interpersonal mess occurs, there is no one better to clean it up quickly and efficiently, and eliminate the possibility of collateral damage, than the CEO. 

Unlike the janitor, whose job is to clean up spills, many leaders complain about doing this part of their job.

In many cases, they stand back, hope and wait for the problem to go away.

Or for someone else to deal with it.


Why does this happen? 

It happens due to the natural fear of conflict and accountability. But I think some of it is related to a subtle, perhaps subconscious, sense of entitlement among leaders.

Consider the most unfortunate example that I have come across.

I recently partnered with a company of 1,500 employees and a market evaluation of $1B struggling with rapid growth as they grew from a high-impact team into an Enterprise. As the company developed, the ties that made them high-performing became so stretched its goals and objectives were frustrated. Employees lost trust and confidence in Leadership, and they became disconnected from the mission and objectives. 

Critically, they faced these issues while undergoing an expansion that would grow its size by 30-50%. While Leadership was 90%  certain that the expansion project would be on time, on budget and successful, employees were 75% sure this would fail. 

When I reported what I saw back to the client, the CEO angrily asked: “Why is this a problem? I Am The CEO. If I want it fixed, I’d say so!”

When surveyed, the employees identified low leadership competencies, a poor leadership culture, and gaps in supervisory leadership skills. Yet the CEO wanted it fixed by fiat, chose not to accept responsibility, and actively blamed confused managers for the problem. 

I’ve seen many reasonable people who work close to the top of those organizations and avoid uncomfortable situations.

Do they believe they have a right to avoid unpleasant tasks?

Do they feel that they can delegate or abdicate the roles they do not enjoy?

A healthy organization is one where leaders seek out discomfort and enter danger whenever they can, knowing they can accomplish three things:

    1. To set an example for others to do the same.
    2. To improve their level” of “comfort with discomfort.
    3. Most importantly, they’ll reduce the impact of the organization’s problems.

Organizations led by those who embrace discomfort will have the advantage.

Based on my work with Leaders from the Corporate, Nonprofit and Public sectors, these theories and models apply to anyone interested in Teamwork, Building Better Leaders, Leading Healthier Organizations and Achieving Remarkable Results. 

I sincerely hope it helps your team overcome any messy organizational issues, whatever the case may be. Your team can achieve more than any one individual member could ever imagine doing alone.


That, after all, is the real power of a Healthy Organization.

Remember, Leadership is a choice, not a position so enjoy the read and the journey. 


6 Tips to Speak Confidently in Meetings (Even When You’re A Bit Scared)

Based on an article written by Melody Wilding, LMSW

When I speak to a group, I am surprised that one of the most recurring questions people ask is: ‘How can I speak confidently in meetings?’

Next Week? How to get people to speak up in meetings.

It usually comes up in raising issues derailing a project or impacting the organization’s health and culture.

Most people are very anxious about raising issues that they may feel are contentious—the idea of speaking in front of peers and bosses and being paralyzing to some.

Whenever it comes time to contribute, some people freeze, overthink their response, or end up rambling.

Afterward, people beat themselves up, feel like an imposter be less confident.

Sound familiar?

If so, you’re far from alone.

Read about running great meetings.

Speaking Up in Meetings

It’s not uncommon to be a high achiever and, at the same time, highly sensitive. This describes many of us who thinks and feels everything more intensely.

Everyday workplace situations might be moderately stressful to the average person can cause some to shut down, especially when overwhelmed. Thanks to your ability to process information more thoroughly, you bring many assets and talents to the table.

But it also means you are more susceptible to stress and emotional reactivity, mainly when it involves judgment or evaluation from others (like in a meeting or on a conference call).

Meetings can be harsh environments because:

  • You want and feel you have to listen carefully to others’ ideas
  • You prefer to observe and absorb what’s happening before offering an opinion
  • You have a high sense of responsibility, so you show respect by deferring to the leaders at the table
  • You tend to be more reserved, which mean more outgoing coworkers may dominate the discussion
  • You are overwhelmed more quickly and may freeze under pressure
  • You can think deeply and see all sides of a situation, which can lead to overthinking
  • You are so empathetic that you worry about what other people think of you


6 Strategies to Speak Confidently in Meetings

Sitting frozen and fearful through yet another meeting is a terrible feeling. Take heart because it doesn’t need to be this way. It is entirely within your power to take control and ditch a habit of staying silent so you can get ahead.

Elevating your visibility at work is essential if you want your career to evolve and grow. You work hard and have great ideas to contribute—you should be making an impact and getting the recognition you deserve.

With a bit of practice from these tips, you’ll finally feel like the integral team member you’ve always been.

  1. Banish Pre-Meeting Jitters

Your hands are shaky. Your stomach is doing somersaults. You suddenly start second-guessing every thought you have. These are common pre-meeting anxieties. It’s normal to experience anticipatory stress when you feel your intelligence or contributions are being evaluated.

Instead of doubting your jitters as a sign that you’re inadequate or otherwise not up to the task at hand, befriend your stress response, reframing it as a sign you’re ready for action and prepared to bring your best.

Ease Into It

It may be tempting to arrive right before a meeting starts to appear prompt or avoid awkward small talk. But if you feel rushed or short on time, this will only exacerbate the existing stress you already feel during meetings.

Instead, build in a buffer and plan to settle in before things get underway. Allow yourself to ease into the physical meeting space. If it’s a virtual teleconference, get comfortable with the webinar controls, your mic, and webcam ahead of time. As colleagues arrive, focus on making conversation with one or two people at a time.

This can help ease anxiety and make speaking up for the duration of the session seamless.

Commit To Speaking Early

Have you ever come to a meeting with ideas and planned what you want to say, then left realizing you said nothing the entire time? You are not alone, but staying quiet is doing yourself a disservice. It typically gets more challenging to enter the conversation as the meeting progresses. The longer you wait, the more your anxiety will build.

Growth often comes from discomfort, so push yourself to speak up early. Ask a question or offer an opinion on a new business proposal. Try to say something in the first 10 to 15 minutes of the session–whether to welcome attendees, present your main argument, ask a question or offer an opinion on a new business proposal.

Use Your Strengths When Speaking Up

You don’t have to be the loudest in the room. Even the soft-spoken can still make an impact by backing up coworkers’ comments with a simple “Great idea! I can see that working we” l.”

You can also focus on asking powerful questions. You are likely very observant, which gives you an edge when it comes to posing the kind of thought-provoking questions that haven’t crossed your colleagues’ minds quite yet.

Be The One To Take Action 

Did something come up in the meeting that could use more research? Commit to taking on something for the next meeting. It shows you have initiative and that you’re interested and invested in your organization.

This is an excellent example of employing a pre-commitment device, a habit formation technique you can use to nudge yourself towards desired behaviours, be more motivated and likely to follow through.

Challenge Your Beliefs About Contributing

Many people’s leadership instincts may be held back by the ‘Imposter’s Syndrome’ where subconscious insecurities can seep into our behaviour to this day when speaking up.

Growing up, what were you told about standing out? Were you given the message by your parents, teachers, and community that you could be whatever you wanted, or did you internalize concepts like: “People won’t like you if you try to stand out”?

Read what an employee might tell you. If they could.


Don’t be held back by real or imagined negative feedback.

Somebody hired you because you are intelligent, competent and qualified to do your job.

If they thought that, the least you could do is respect their opinion and speak up.

You have got a lot to offer.

Now it’s time to let everyone know it.

What Is a Red Team Exercise & Why Should You Conduct One?

The most enduring leadership lesson I ever learned was a military adage that says:

“Your plan is only good until first contact with the enemy.

And the enemy’s job is to stop your.”

 In military training, friendly forces are called the ‘Blue Team,’ while enemy forces are considered the ‘Red Team.’

The Red Team’s job is to stop the Blue Team’s plan.

Read more about planning

Red Teaming

Recently a simulated battle took place at the U.S. Marine Corps training Centre at Twentynine Palms, California. The exercise involved 600 British Royal Marines acting like the ‘enemy’ force, or ‘Red Team’ against a much larger U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) unit preparing for deployment overseas.

The British press gloated that the Royal Marines trounced the USMC so severely during the exercise that US commanders asked for a pause to reset their plans.

I’ve been on the receiving end of a similar simulated defeat, and I was glad for it.


Except for a few bruised egos, nobody was hurt. We learned important lessons. And plans were tested and improved. And we were better for the experience and more prepared for the day when we faced off against a real enemy.

This is the point of exercising and training: To test your plans and capabilities.


How about your plans?

Outside of the military, most organizations conduct their planning with a small group of executives. Or worse, planning is done by one person, the CEO.

One of the best ways to ensure your strategy or projects are successful is to test it by an objective team, a ‘Red Team,’ that sees it through clear and new eyes.

The red team evaluates a strategy, a presentation, or a business plan for weaknesses and checks that any unanswered questions are answered to improve the plan.

And give it the best chances of success.

if your presentation or strategy has serious problems, they should tell you that, “This is not making sense!”

Red teaming can be a very unsettling experience for some – but the goal of each member of the red team is to help improve the strategy, presentation, value proposition, business plan and chances of success.

Remember, to have success; you occasionally have to break a few eggs!

Here are some optimal guidelines for forming and running a red team review:

  • Because of their experience, members of our red teams emulate the process and mindset of the stakeholders.
  • Pick at least three people to serve on each team.
  • They are knowledgeable in the company’s space.
  • Team members must have no prior connection with the team that is presenting.
  • They must be willing and able to commit the necessary time and attention to the process.
  • Insist that members are given at least two days to read the materials in the presentation and do a bit of personal research.
  • Team members must be committed to helping the team improve their chances of success.

Read about how to get results

Benefits of a Red Team Review

A Red Team Review is an independent test of the executive’s decision-making.  The results will provide you with guidance and direction on what must be done to improve your plan’s chances of success.