How do I coach a low performer?

Some managers dread having the post-review discussion with their lowest performer. Instead you should look at it as an opportunity to pinpoint underlying issues and really help them reach their potential. Follow these steps:


1. Find out what the source of the problem is


Low performance doesn’t necessarily mean your employee isn’t cut out for the work. Often there is something deeper that’s keeping your employee from performing at their full potential. For example, they may feel the assignments they’ve been given are unclear and are having trouble figuring out the best way to carry them out. Alternatively, they may feel their skills aren’t sufficient to handle a new task they’ve been given.


There are two ways you can gather clues. First start off by asking them how they feel they’re doing. More often than not low performers will already feel they’re facing an obstacle in their performance. Beginning your 1-on-1 by going over their self-assessment will also help start the conversation. Ask them why they rated themselves lower in a particular skill and higher in others.


2. How can you help?


Find out what you can do to help them. Whether it’s providing extra training, giving clearer instructions or making more work optimisation tools available, make an effort to first understand what they feel would help them most and then offer suggestions.


3. Help them get back on track


Help them set SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely) goals for the next month or quarter to track their progress. For example, if they set goals which are too ambitious they may lose confidence when they don’t reach their goal. Alternatively, if their goals are too easy they may not be challenged enough to improve.


This article is part of a management guide about following up after a performance review.


Next Guides:


Manager’s Handbook: Following-up After a Review


Why should I follow up after a review?


Becoming a mentor