Let’s get this out in the open: working with other people is HARD.

And giving effective feedback about poor performance is something we all find hard – and often avoid or procrastinate about.

I saw this and the timing was perfect.

underperformance accountability amber rahim coaching

Lately I’ve been working with someone and they have not been pulling their weight. A key part of being a leader in life and work, is to be able to hold people accountable.

Sometimes we need to hold ourselves accountable, sometimes we need to hold others accountable.

Tackling Underperformance

But here’s the shitty bit for the ones doing the holding: the other person can feel attacked.

There you are, being all calm, using the tools you learned like radical candor, channelling your inner leader, and being a Jedi master.
Only they have been taken over by their inner Sith, and don’t appreciate your comments. And then you get a whole load of shit back from them.

Why? Because the person you’re holding accountable is not ready to acknowledge the impact of their behaviour on others.

Again, I never said this leadership stuff was easy.

And of course it isn’t. Nobody wants to be told that they aren’t doing a good job, ESPECIALLY when it’s true.
If it’s not true, there’s indignation.
When it’s true, there’s indignation, anger, shame, fear, frustration, disappointment…..

As a leader you cannot control how the other person responds. We can never control how the other person responds.

And this is the hard bit: even if they take it really well (i.e. are receptive), it still feels uncomfortable. For you and for them.

Holding People Accountable

But here’s a perspective that makes all of this a whole lot easier for you to tackle poor performance:
holding people accountable is an act of caring.

You know they are capable of more. You know how good they actually are. You recognise that they must be struggling with something right now.
You want them to achieve their potential.
You know that if they step up, they will feel so good about themselves.
You know that they actually want to do a good job (despite whatever they have going on for themselves).

Holding them accountable tells them that you believe in them, while recognising this isn’t their best work.

Just accept that they probably won’t like it, and you’ll both feel bad for a bit. And that’s ok. Life isn’t all roses. You need the manure to make the best roses. So shovel that shit and hold them accountable. Care for them enough to speak up.

In the end, it’s the biggest act of caring. Why? Because if they continue to behave that way and not pull their weight…. they’ll lose the respect of those around them, and they’ll probably end up losing their job.

This is part of my Thought Piece Series where I explore topics related to leadership and provide both answers and questions. My intention is to start meaningful conversations that help us move forward. Want to connect? Click here.