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8 Tips for Confronting the Weakest Link
One of the most difficult business resource management tasks required by project managers is communicating dissatisfaction with a team member’s performance. The task is necessary, however, because the success of the entire team can be jeopardized by just one person’s failure to meet expectations. To avoid the growing frustration and potential loss of productivity that can occur when a team member is not pulling his weight, it is important to effectively address the need for resource management improvements as soon as it is apparent. Follow these eight guidelines for effectively communicating management dissatisfaction with a project team member.
1. Take a Breather
Don’t address your concerns at a moment of stress or anger. Your own frustration may overshadow your management message and hinder effective communication. Take the time to calm down, compose your thoughts and enumerate your requirements.
2. Communicate Privately
Regardless of a team member’s performance, communicating with respect is always the mark of good project management. Don’t address negative concerns in front of an audience. Asking to speak with your team member privately will demonstrate respect and show that you are serious about finding a positive solution to the performance problem rather than simply venting your frustration.
3. Begin with Positives
Although performance criticism may be at the forefront of your mind, always look for positive habits to compliment first. Praising a team member’s skills first will show that he is a valued member of the team, and will make him more open to wanting to improve other areas of his performance.
4. Be Specific
Avoid generalities when confronting a performance problem. Instead, highlight specific actions (or inaction) that are causing a project breakdown, and use specific examples from the project in question. It is much easier for a team member to address specific issues than general concerns that are subject to opinion or individual tastes. In addition, when listing shortcomings, avoid using extreme terms like “always" and “never," which frankly are never accurate.
5. Make it Constructive
Constructive criticism offers solutions rather than simply highlighting the offending behavior. Offer positive suggestions for how a team member can change his work habits or performance in order to meet your expectations.
6. Ask for Input
Give your team member the opportunity to communicate his own perspective and to ask questions about project concerns. It may be that there are larger issues that need to be addressed to ensure project effectiveness. Asking for input gives your team member the benefit of the doubt, communicates value and encourages important feedback.
7. Outline Clear Expectations
Don’t leave your conversation open ended. Set clear and measurable goals for improved performance. An abstract statement like “you need to do better" will not be effective in promoting change. Assign a specific time frame with specific parameters for how performance improvement will be measured. In addition, follow up with your team member during the designated time to reiterate not only expectations, but also your confidence in his ability to contribute to the project.
8. Let It Go
Once you confront your team member with the need for improvement, and are able to gage his response, don’t keep a running tally of wrongs. It’s difficult to maintain good performance under the constant eye of criticism. Allow your team member the space to correct his actions and then, offer a clean slate.
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