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Jamon Holmgren
I received this Twitter DM from someone who asked the really interesting question: how do you manage underperforming team members? I don't think we've entirely "solved" this, but after employing people for 10 years, I have thoughts.
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Jamon Holmgren Jul 22
Replying to @jamonholmgren
1. Start from a position of empathy. Most people _want_ to do better. They're struggling for various reasons, not all of which are professionally-related. Start by seeking to understand what might be impacting their ability to be productive.
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Jamon Holmgren Jul 22
Replying to @jamonholmgren
Relationship problems, difficulty concentrating, lack of experience in a key area, communication problems, lack of sleep, slow computer, lack of enthusiasm, poor code by coworkers, lack of direction, too much direction -- all real reasons why people have underperformed for me.
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Jamon Holmgren Jul 22
Replying to @jamonholmgren
2. Provide high personal support. This is super key. You can't solve all their problems, but you can provide support and guidance and flexibility and mentorship and lots of other things in their environment at work to help them better cope with whatever is holding them back.
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Jamon Holmgren Jul 22
Replying to @jamonholmgren
One way to do this is to pair them up with someone at the company who is known to be a strong mentor. These people help "unlock" the potential in others. Let these engineers know that you want to see growth from the other individual & let them work their magic.
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Jamon Holmgren Jul 22
Replying to @jamonholmgren
Some managers will crack down on underperforming employees and become more rigid. That is maybe appropriate in some specific cases, but often it's the opposite -- provide more flexibility in workday, location (), and type of task. People work differently.
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Jamon Holmgren Jul 22
Replying to @jamonholmgren
I always encourage employees to focus on mental, spiritual, physical, emotional, and relational health. I tell them that if they aren't healthy in other ways, it will impact their productivity. I'll give them 2 hours in the middle of the day to exercise if that's what they want.
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Jamon Holmgren Jul 22
Replying to @jamonholmgren
I should emphasize that I don't tell them _how_ to get "healthy" in those ways, nor define what that looks like. It's up to them (and their therapist/counselor/trainer/psychologist/pastor) to figure that out.
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Jamon Holmgren Jul 22
Replying to @jamonholmgren
3. Have high expectations. If there's one thing that seems consistently true about people, it's that if you expect little, you'll get little. Let them know you expect more from them and know they can do better.
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Jamon Holmgren Jul 22
Replying to @infinite_red
We (empathetically, with high personal support) expect a lot from our employees. has a really good reputation, and we want to keep that. Our designers and developers are who earn that reputation, not the leadership, and we don't settle for mediocre here.
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Jamon Holmgren Jul 22
Replying to @infinite_red
It's often easier to just reduce your expectations to a level you think they can achieve so you're not disappointed and then move along. Because empathy and high personal support is draining to a leader, and it can be easier to just have low expectations and forget about them.
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Jamon Holmgren Jul 22
Replying to @infinite_red
My basketball coach told me: "If your jumpshot is consistently short, increase your jumping power. If your jumpshot is long, increase your follow-through." It's unlikely I'd have too much of either. Similarly, we want lots of high support paired with high expectations.
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Jamon Holmgren Jul 22
Replying to @infinite_red
(My jumpshot still sucked but that's a different problem.) 😅
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Jamon Holmgren Jul 22
Replying to @infinite_red
Ultimately, if you respond with empathy, put in place high personal support, and have clearly laid out and reasonable high expectations, then you've done your part and the person will either respond to that or not. You've done what you can.
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Jamon Holmgren Jul 22
Replying to @infinite_red
Under this system, we've seen team members who were on the verge of quitting or (frankly) being let go turn it around and become amazing employees.
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Jamon Holmgren Jul 22
Replying to @infinite_red
The others see the care that we put into each and every person and it impacts overall morale in a positive way. Conversely, morale is adversely affected if you let mediocre work slide by and others have to shoulder the load.
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Jamon Holmgren Jul 22
Replying to @infinite_red
With that said, I've had to fire people. And it sucks, for me but even more so for the person who was fired. It hurts and I hate it. That's probably why I work so hard to avoid it.
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Jamon Holmgren Jul 22
I hope this was helpful. I'd like to hear what others have to add to this; I'm very interested in learning. cc
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Jacob Hummel Jul 22
Great insight! Thanks for sharing 😁
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Jamon Holmgren Jul 22
I appreciate it, Jacob!
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