Business leaders are in a catch-22 situation. On the one hand, we need the absolute best from our teams to navigate this crisis. On the other hand, many people are still adjusting to working from home and struggling to focus on work through this difficult time. 

With so many factors outside of our control, leaders need to focus on the steps they can take to drive performance. It’s crucial to work on actionable, practical ways to drive performance over the long-term. 

Make a Plan for Measuring and Tracking Performance 

We usually find out pretty fast if we have a performance problem. But with everything going on during a crisis, you’d be forgiven for losing track of your team’s day-to-day performance. However, now is the time to make sure all hands are on deck delivering 100%. 

Rather than annual performance reviews, consider doing them quarterly or monthly. Check in with leaders at every level of the organization to see how they and their teams are handling the situation. With such a big shift in our work environments and in the market at large, it’s vital to pay close attention to how every team member is performing. 

Diagnose the Cause of Performance Issues 

If we identify any areas where performance is lagging, we now have to identify what’s going wrong. This is trickier than it looks! All too often, leaders jump to conclusions about why someone is not performing, or why they are struggling. We assume a person is incompetent, lazy, or just not the right fit for the job. 

However, we have to step back and work to truly understand the situation. The best thing you can do here is ask questions of everyone involved and truly listen while reserving judgement. 

Here are 13 questions I like to keep in my back pocket when diagnosing performance challenges: 

  • Where are you today? 
  • What’s working in your role today? 
  • What’s not working in your role and/or company today? 
  • Why do you feel like it’s not working? 
  • What’s missing? 
  • What are you going to do to fix it? 
  • What do you want out of the situation? 
  • Why do you want that result? 
  • What major obstacles are in your way? 
  • What have you done to overcome those obstacles? 
  • What was the result of your efforts? 
  • Where do you think you should go next? 
  • How can I help you get there? 

Once we truly understand the root of our performance challenges, we can take effective steps to fix the problem. 

Take Steps to Alleviate Pain, Uncertainty and Frustration 

There’s no doubt that this is a difficult time for people. The uncertainty of the situation can easily interfere with performance, while many are struggling to adapt to working from home. Many people feel restless stuck at home all day, while parents may be dealing with unruly children in the background. 

If leaders want to get the best performance, they need to do what they can to make this situation easier for their team members. One of the best ways to do this is by communicating frequently and openly. Let your teams know where the organization stands and what may come next. Being silent or sugarcoating the situation will only breed hearsay and anxiety. 

Leaders Have More Control Than They Think 

Having been through the dot com bubble and the 2008 financial crisis, I know how stressful it is to lead in times of crisis. However, one of the best things for leaders to do is to focus on what they CAN control.  

If we are transparent with our teams and work collaboratively to drive their performance, I still believe there are excellent opportunities for growth through this tough situation. If we put our people first and truly support them, we can come out of this crisis stronger than ever. 

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