Leadership is tough. One of leadership’s most significant challenges is finding helpful ways to support struggling team members. All teams will have team members face challenges. As leaders, it is our responsibility to come alongside those having trouble and find ways to allow them to grow and thrive.
But, before we can help a struggling team member, we must first understand what is causing them to struggle. A team member may be having difficulty in their role for many reasons. For example, they may be failing to succeed due to:
Poor organizational skills: Some individuals struggle with just getting their work organized. They are disorganized and have no system in place for managing their responsibilities. This causes them to miss deadlines and fail to complete their work.
Lack of attention to detail: Others get their work done, but they have an inattention to detail, which leads them to turn in work riddled with errors and mistakes.
Overwhelmed: Some team members may just feel overwhelmed, which causes them to shut down. Or it may cause them to try multitasking their work, which studies show only 2.5% of people can do effectively. So, rather than getting multiple tasks done simultaneously like they are hoping, they lose focus and struggle more.
Poor time management: A few team members may be organized in keeping track of their tasks and responsibilities; they are just not good at budgeting their time. They often underestimate the time required to get stuff done. This causes them to miss deadlines or end up cramming, resulting in their work being done poorly.
Procrastination: Some are procrastinators who put things off until the last minute. As we all know, it’s hard to do high-quality work when the team scurries around trying to get things done.
Lack of clear communication: A team member may struggle because they don’t understand what they should be doing. Perhaps it wasn’t explained to them well, or they were not listening when it was, but they are unsure of what to do, leading to errors and delays.
Lack of motivation or engagement: Team members are often not motivated. There may be several reasons for this lack of motivation, which needs to be explored with them, but whatever the reason, it leads to subpar work.
Lack of training: Some employees may not be getting the task done or done the right way because they simply don’t know how.
Personal factors: One of the biggest things that may be affecting someone’s work is personal issues. These could include health problems, family issues, financial issues, or other stressful stuff that makes it hard for them to concentrate, stay organized, and get their work done.
There are many reasons a team member may be struggling, and the first step in being able to help them is to truly understand what is going on to cause their low performance. We can’t help them fix an issue if we don’t first know what that issue is.
But, once we understand the issue, as leaders, what can we do to help our struggling team member?
1. Provide clear expectations and instructions: If we are frustrated with a team member’s performance, we must ensure they understand they are missing the mark. So, ensure they know their job, the minimum standard, and where they are falling short.
2. Set realistic goals and prioritize tasks: Related to number one above, don’t just give team members the end goal but also help them break down their responsibilities into smaller goals and tasks. Then help them prioritize those tasks and focus on what is most important.
3. Offer training and resources: If they know what the standard is, and they are still failing to meet it, the next question to ask is, do they know how to do the work that is being asked of them. If not, provide them with the training they need.
4. Get them the right tools: Some people track things better with a pen and paper. Others use the basic “Notes” app on their phone or computer. Some work best with full computer programs like Todoist or Nozbe. Have the employee find what works best for them and provide it to them.
5. Regular check-ins and feedback: Some people work great independently and need only a few reminders and little feedback. However, most people need at least the occasional check-in to know they are headed in the right direction. Schedule time for regular check-ins with each member of your team.
6. Offer mentoring or coaching: If all the above still isn’t working, consider providing a team member with a coach who can help them with the guidance and support they need to address their specific issue.
7. Flexibility and understanding: For those facing personal issues outside work. Recognize that these stresses are likely to some degree affecting their performance. Be understanding and offer flexibility when you are able. Be accessible so that team members feel comfortable discussing personal difficulties with you that may impact their work. Treat your employees with the kindness you would want to be treated with if you were facing what they are in their life.
8. Foster a positive work environment: One of the best things we can do to help employees thrive is to create a work environment that people want to be a part of and do their best for. We create a positive work environment by doing small things like taking time to appreciate everyone’s efforts, sending people training so they can continue to grow personally and professionally, and encouraging a healthy work-life balance. This creates an atmosphere that motivates people, which leads them to be focused on doing their best.
9. Pray for your employees: As a pastor, I know that one of the best things I can do for my team members and their families is to pray for them. Pray for their well-being and success. Pray for their role on the team. Pray for their strengths to be developed and for their weaknesses to be overcome.
10. Lead by example: As a leader, your actions and attitude set the tone for the workplace. Be a positive model and demonstrate the qualities you want your entire team to have.
Remember, everyone is unique. Likewise, each team member’s struggles are unique, so how we help each person will differ. But, as leaders, it is our responsibility to come alongside those that are struggling and find ways to allow them to grow and thrive.