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Managing in the Reset Economy

October 07, 2009

No_mediocrity_pin Unless you've been asleep for the last eighteen months, you know the economy stinks and folks are hurting. You've also probably heard that lots of people have been scared into a renewed appreciation for their hard-earned dollars.

This, in turn, has made things tougher for businesses and nonprofit organizations, many of which have cut hours, staff, and/or service offerings in an attempt to stay afloat until the storm ebbs.

In such an environment, managers who have been asked to do more with less are always on the lookout for advice about the challenge, as the Poynter Institute's Jill Geisler puts it, of managing people whose work is...well, mediocre. You know, the employees you might have carried in "fatter" times, even though their work is "uninspired, formulaic, lackluster, average, not awful but never great."

Before you give in to temptation and "jettison" that underperforming employee, says Geisler, ask yourself the following:

  1. Have I been clear with this person about roles and responsibilities?
  2. Have I communicated our standards of quality and how they are measured?
  3. Have I provided regular performance feedback?
  4. Have I avoided tough conversations with this person, and instead settled for "workarounds" of his or her performance?
  5. Have I provided training to help fill gaps in this person's skill set?
  6. Have I enlisted the help of managers or peers to help this person improve?
  7. Have I communicated the urgency of the need for better performance?
  8. Have I discussed the potential consequences of continued mediocre performance?
  9. Are there ways this person is contributing that I haven't taken into account?
  10. Might this person have skills that I haven't fully identified?

In an economy where listening and communication skills are more important than ever, the best place to start exercising them is your own shop.

For more advice about what great bosses know about mediocrity, check out Geisler's podcast on the subject here. And if you've got any timely tips for nonprofit managers trying to weather this tough economy, feel free to use the comments section to share them with others.

-- Mitch Nauffts

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Quote of the Week

  • "[L]et me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is...fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance...."

    — Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd president of the United States

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