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How Do I Get Them to Execute?

My business mentor once told me that there are only two things that managers do:

1.Figure out what to do, and

2.Get people to do it.

Out of the two, the second is most always the challenge.

Business owners often tell me that they know exactly what they want their employees to do, but have difficulty getting them to perform. In my experience, there are only five reasons why an employee does not execute. When determining what is keeping the employee from being successful, it may be any one or a combination of the first four points listed below. If you have eliminated the first four possibilities, then you can move to number five.

  1. The expectations are not clear. We may believe that we have communicated our wishes to our employees, or that they should “know what to do.” After all it is common sense isn’t it? However, in more than 50 percent of all discipline matters that escalated to my office, there was an element of the employee truly not understanding what the supervisor wanted done. If you learn to communicate both verbal and written instructions effectively, you will eliminate many of your employee issues. This takes practice in both substance and style, but is worth the effort.

  2. There are roadblocks internal to the company. Sometimes policies, procedures, differing supervisor expectations or other situations internal to the company stand in the way of an employee performing to standard. In working with one organization, a difference in supervisor expectations created a roadblock between departments that kept the employees from completing tasks on time. Sometimes the roadblocks are personal and not internal to the organization. When this happens, you can choose to counsel the employee or direct them to an EAP (Employee Assistance Program) or other organizations that may be able to help. However, personal issues and roadblocks cannot be accepted as an excuse for poor performance.

  3. They don’t know how to do it. Never assume that employees understand how, or have the skills to perform a task. Remember what happens when we assume. In addition, don’t ask employees the closed-ended question, “Do you understand?” The normal response is to say, “Yes.” After all, no one wants to appear incompetent. Instead, learn to ask open ended questions that will help you to determine the true extent of the employee’s skills and knowledge. These are normally questions that begin with “how,” “When,” and “What.” Be willing to spend time coaching, training and guiding the employee until they are fully functioning in the task. This is time well spent.

  4. They have not been properly motivated. I often say that I can get employees to do anything within reason if I have full access to the employees, their supervisors/management and the organization’s systems. Access to management and systems are needed to keep the employee focused and on track. Management must reinforce good performance, as well as positive behaviors and attitudes. Performance management systems, compensation and other reward and discipline systems, procedures and policies must be aligned with the overall strategy of the organization. When the entire organization works towards the same objectives, the results are amazing.

  5. They are not capable and/or willing. Finally, after you have fully executed points one through four, you may find that a small percentage of employees still are not on board or executing at an acceptable level. For these individuals, you must determine if they are physically and mentally capable of performing the task. Sometimes the required tasks are outside of the individual’s abilities. If you determine that the employee is capable, but they are still under-performing, you need to check for willingness. In rare cases, the employee is, for whatever reason, unwilling to perform to standard. In either case, the hard decision must be made to either move the employee to a different position where they can be successful or to terminate their employment.

Getting employees to execute your organization’s strategy is critical to the success of any business. For most businesses employees represent the largest investment of a company’s resources. Ensure you are making the most out of yours.

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