How to Fix Your Underperforming Team Before It's Too Late

How to Fix Your Underperforming Team Before It's Too Late

John Eades 18/02/2020 7

Joey was an experienced manager at a mid-sized company. When his team missed its mark in the first year, he made a myriad of excuses.

The next year didn’t get any better, so he blamed people on his team and even threw a teammate under the bus to save his job. 

While Joey’s responses weren’t unlike most leaders of underperforming teams, the reason things weren’t getting better was that Joey hadn’t come to grips with a hard truth; The responsibility is the leaders.  

Sure there are many possible factors that can cause a team to underperform. These are just a few: lack of talent, talented people not meeting their potential, changes in the market, or a lack of resources. Still, ultimately, one person is responsible, the leader.  

As the late Kobe Bryant said, “Leadership is Responsibility.”  

If you are leading an underperforming team or you want to take your current team to higher levels of performance, here’s what you can do.

Reinvest in Your Relationships

People work harder and push themselves to new levels of performance when they know their boss cares about them.  

Researchers at the University of Berkley studied what motivates productivity in professionals. When people felt recognized for the work they did, they were 23% more effective and productive. But what’s even more astonishing is that when people felt valued and cared for, their productivity and effectiveness experienced a 43% increase. While recognition is essential, there is an additional 20% jump in performance by showing your people you care for them. 

Make time for one-on-one meetings with team members to find out what’s important to them, what goals they want to achieve, and what current challenges they are facing in their life.  

Set Higher Standards

Anytime performance isn’t where you need or want it; it’s time to raise the standard. A standard is simply defining what good looks like. From all of our research in studying what the best leaders do in Building the Best, it’s clear;

Good leaders define what good looks like; Great leaders define what great looks like. 

Raise the bar on what expected to be a part of the team or organization. Start with the level of effort and commitment required moving forward. Ask yourself this question:

“What kind of behaviors and actions do we need from every member of our team to level up?” Then set standards based on what’s required.  

While this is simple to write, it’s difficult to put it into practice. For your people’s behavior to change, you have to be consistent in your message and in accountability, which leads us to the next point.

Accelerate with Accountability

Many words make people uncomfortable; “accountability” is one of those words. Accountability is simply the obligation of an individual or organization to account for its activities, accept responsibility for them, and to disclose the results in a transparent manner.

A mentor of mine always told me, “What you tolerate, you encourage.” It is your obligation to hold yourself and others accountable to the standards you set. Otherwise, you’re encouraging sub-standard behavior. To do this effectively, you have to have the courage and a proven model to have direct dialogues with your people when standards aren’t met. 

Remove the People who aren’t Bought in

One of the fastest ways to improve performance isn’t by addition, but by reduction. If there are team members who aren’t bought in and they have been given multiple chances to get on board, it’s time to make a change.  

Not only does their continued participation hold others back, but there’s a good chance they are bringing negativity and doubt to the team. There is no bigger killer to performance than doubt and fear.  

Each of these strategies by themselves is challenging, but put together, they become even harder. Know this, you were not put in this position if you couldn’t rise to the occasion. If you believe in yourself, you will be surprised at what you are going to achieve as a team. 

Get the #1 Best New Management Book to Read by Book AuthorityBuilding the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success is published by McGraw-Hill. Learn the stories, principles, and tools to help elevate the way you lead others.

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About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company that exists to turn managers into leaders and create healthier places to work. He is currently booking events and speaking engagements for 2020. John was named one of LinkedIn’s 2017 Top Voices in Management & Workplace and was awarded the 2017 Readership Award by Training John is also the host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. You follow him on Instagram @johngeades. 

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  • Izzy Stacey

    When an employee is not pulling his weight, it can hurt team morale.

  • Kumar Mohit

    Good read

  • Emma Walker

    Sometimes the manager is the problem

  • Tracy Allen

    Communication is the perfect answer

  • Bethan Rowe

    Thanks for the tips

  • Dean Payne

    Culture and performance are not separate entities. Culture is underpinned by performance.

  • Rose Simmons

    I got so much value out of this post - thanks for sharing

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John Eades

Leadership Expert

John is the CEO of LearnLoft, author of, F.M.L. Standing Out & Being a Leader and host of the 'Follow My Lead' Podcast. He writes or has been featured on, LinkedIn Pulse,,, CNBC Money, and more. John completed his education at the University of Maryland College. 

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