Four Questions Excellent Leaders Ask Underperforming Employees

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Managing an underperforming employee is often challenging. However, it’s far easier to get results by asking the right questions. When a leader asks a question, the worker reveals more about their mindset, difficulties, motivation, or sources of uncertainty. As a result, it’s far easier for leaders to determine appropriate corrective actions.

While many questions can potentially deliver positive results, some are more effective than others. Here’s a look at four questions excellent leaders ask underperforming employees and why they work.

1. Do You Understand What’s Required and When It’s Due? If So, Can You Please Outline It for Me?

In some cases, poor performance by an employee isn’t due to a lack of engagement or a subpar skill set. Instead, it’s spurred by a misunderstanding regarding what is required of them or an initial miscommunication from a manager or colleague.

This two-part question is designed to ensure the underperforming employee is clear on any expectations regarding their duties. It’s a chance for leaders to identify potential misalignments or notice signs of confusion. Then, they can clarify points as needed, giving the employee better direction to get them on the right track.

2. Do You Know Why This Task Is Critical?

Sometimes, a lack of employee motivation results from not knowing why a task matters to the big picture. If a duty seems meaningless or inconsequential, workers may put it on the backburner or give less than their total effort.

With this question, leaders can determine if the “why” behind the “what” is either unknown or misunderstood. It also helps create opportunities to clarify the importance of the activity, allowing the employee to see the consequences of falling short when handling the task. As a result, it lets the leader provide a source of motivation, which can lead to more robust performance.

3. Are You Fully Equipped to Handle the Task, or Is Something Missing?

It isn’t uncommon for an underperforming employee to want to excel but not have everything they need to do so effectively. Maybe they’re missing a critical skill or piece of information. Perhaps they don’t have the right tool, system access, or support to manage the task.

This question allows leaders to learn more about what’s potentially holding an employee back. It could show that additional training, new tools, increased access, or other steps are necessary to ensure workers have what they need to thrive.

4. Have You Encountered Barriers That Are Hindering Your Success?

While this question seems similar to the one above, it creates opportunities to learn about issues beyond the employee’s capabilities, available tools, and level of access. For example, a worker may reveal that they aren’t getting necessary information from a colleague promptly, and the employee lacks the authority to resolve the issue.

Essentially, this question opens the door to discuss other hurdles that impact the employee but don’t have to do with their capabilities directly. As a result, it’s a wise addition to the conversation, creating more opportunities for supportive action.

The four questions above can help leaders address issues with underperforming employees. If you’d like to learn more or need to hire competent candidates for your open position, UCP wants to hear from you. Contact us today.