The Company We Keep

In this episode of THE COMPANY WE KEEP podcast, host Jason Pearl talks all about underperforming teams. No matter what business you're in, Jason's has takeaways to help you identify the problem and guide your team to success.

Show Notes

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Show Highlights:
(00:00) Introduction
(01:19) Underperforming teams
(02:19) Identify the problem
(06:06) What's the process?
(10:34) Talent assessments 
(15:30) Look at your company culture 
(17:26): How to take action
(21:14): Recap
(23:15) Book a coaching session!

This Episode is Sponsored By:
Harbortown Financial Group
To learn more: Reach out to John MacDonald at and 716-276-7613.

Mentioned On The Episode:
Nacre Consulting

What is The Company We Keep?

Jason Pearl is a second generation entrepreneur, bootstrapping business owner, loving husband, devoted dad, and raging Bills fan. He tosses aside the idea that you can't have it all and devotes his life to proving it wrong. Grab a cup of coffee and join Jason every Tuesday morning as he dives into topics to help everyday business owners and entrepreneurs think differently about growth and success, and how to achieve a better balance in both business and in life. He’s also shining a giant spotlight on some very smart people in his inner-circle that have helped ignite his success along the way.

[00:00:00] All right, all right. Welcome back to another episode of The Company We Keep podcast. I am your host, Jason Pearl.

This is a podcast for everyday business owners, entrepreneurs, and leaders who want to think differently about growth, think differently about success, and want to achieve better balance in both business and in life.

Season three and this episode is sponsored by John MacDonald and Harbortown Financial Group. John and his team work with individuals, families and small businesses to build customized financial plans using their holistic goal-based approach.

If you want to contact John, who's a good friend of mine, or his firm, all the details are gonna be provided on my website, Go to the, uh, podcast section of the website, and if you go into show notes, all of John's phone number, email, contact information is there.

[00:01:12] Today, I'm really excited to talk to you guys about something that I've basically made a career on. we're gonna talk about underperforming teams today.

Whether you've been a part of an underperforming team or you haven't, as you go through your professional career, there's likely a chance that you are going to be on one of these underperforming teams, or you may be leading or, you may find yourself in a situation, working with someone that themselves is on an underperforming team.

Could be in business, could be in athletics, could be in a number of different situations.

But we're gonna talk about that, and we're gonna tackle some of the issues and give you some actionable takeaways, of how to address.

[00:01:49] So, as we go through this podcast, we're gonna look and we're gonna give advice through the lens of being a leader of a team or taking over a team that is underperforming.

So as long as you can, get your head in that right mindset, that's the lens that we're gonna be looking through.

So, the first thing that you want to look at, um, when you are taking over or leading in underperforming teams, you have to identify the problem, Identify what exactly is underperforming.

I know that sounds so simple, but it really isn't. you'd be surprised in business, how many people are confused as to what they actually are supposed to be doing, and what is the most important metric or most important task that they need to achieve to be successful in their role.

[00:02:34] So first thing's first, you need to be specific about what or who is underperforming.

Again, know that sounds obvious, to get to the root of the issue and take that under-performance and turn it into a positive, you really need to be clear.

So, clarity is paramount. So, I'm gonna give you some actionable items, some takeaways. and this will help you start to analyze, right, what to do when you're in this situation.

So, the first thing that I wanted to discuss is alignment to goal, okay. When somebody says you're underperforming, that means that there's goal that you're not meeting, right.

So, what you- you, what you have to look at the goal and what's the alignment around it, right?

Um, what's the goal of the team?

Is it a revenue-based goal? Is it a support-based goal? Is it a service-based goal.

There's, you know, you have to understand what it and then also from a team standpoint, one- what is the functional goal of the team?

I've been consulting for companies where, when I get in there and start to help them turn something around, I'll realize that the alignment was- was actually never there. there was not clarity between teams.

There was not clarity from the top of the organization to the different siloed departments within the organization. So, clarity is really important.

Also, once you understand, the alignment towards the goal, you want of go back, and if you weren't there, you want to ask questions about how the goal was communicated.

I know I'm a- a really big proponent of having kick-off meetings in the beginning of the year. regardless of teams, normally mine are in the sales or revenue side of teams, but, I like to schedule and have at least a half day, sometimes a dully day, kick-off meeting sometime in January. Preferably within the first, you know, 15 days of January.

If you're working on an annual basis for- for goals, you want to get with your team and effectively communicate what the goals are going to be. And around the goals, you want to communicate all the things that are gonna need to be done to make sure those goals are achieved.

[00:04:26] So, if you find yourself in an underperforming team, go back and think about, okay, at the beginning of this year, how were these goals communicated?

Were they communicated?

What type of clarity was put around, and then also, is the goal gonna be effectively managed?
Has it been effectively managed? Are you effectively managing what that goal is?

Do you wait until the end of the month or the end of the quarter or the end of the year to address issues, or do you have some level of daily or weekly assessment to make sure you understand that you're pacing towards goals?

And then also finally, as the leader, do you make the goal about you?

Do you push on your people that if these goals aren't hit, it's going to make you as the leader look bad?

Or are you taking a team approach? There's a lot can- that- that comes out when there is stress put on a team, right. when goals are not being met, there is stress internally. And stress does different things to different people. if you're not a tight, cohesive team, a lot of times when there's stress, that weight of the stress comes in the form of finger pointing, or the blame game, or, looking at certain things and deflecting why you're not doing things, or blaming it on others, right.

So, the best thing to do when y- you're a part of a team that's underperforming, again, whether you're leading that team or you are a member of that team, is you have to realize that teams win and they lose together.

There obviously is always going to be individuals that like outperform others or underperform others, but a team approach is always best, given that you're on a team that has multiple people, that is something that you have to look at. when you're a part of a team, you address the team collectively as well, you make sure that everyone understands that this, we win or we lose as a team. We succeed or we fail as a team.

So, the first step there is alignment to goal and all the things I just talked about.

The second thing that you want to look at, when you're dealing with underperforming team is that keyword process, right.

I know early on in my career, being process driven and process oriented was difficult for me because I at times lacked some organization skills.

I wanted to move really fast. When you move really fast, oftentimes you don't have the process built. And actually, it should be the opposite.

If you want to move fast, you need to build the right processes to support the speed at, uh, which you want to move.

Think about if you're driving a sports car down a cobblestone road, you're gonna have lots of bumps.

The car is probably gonna zig-zag. It's gonna be really difficult. But if you build, uh, if you want a car to go fast and you want to drive it really fast, you want to build a road that's smooth, right, so the car can have less bumps and it can move as fast as you want it to move, It's the same thing with any type of team.

If you have lofty goals or if you want to move fast and you want everyone to succeed, you have to build process around what your goals are.

Whether you're in a, whether you're looking at this from like a sales or marketing or product or engineering or operations or service, whatever type of, uh, team kind of format you're looking at this, I'd imagine that a lot of times, if you find that your team is un- underperforming, there's gaps in- in some very critical processes.

And, one of those gaps could be communication, obviously, most people say, of course you're supposed to communicate," but think about the world that we live in. There's a lot of remote work. there's a lot of, video and email and chat type of communication.

So, oftentimes, there could be lack of clarity, lack of communication, lack of understanding as what's supposed to happen. making sure you have a process to clearly communicate, the goals and the expectations of your team on a consistent basis is going to be critical. Also too, under this whole process section, there likely should be something that has some process around how you set your goals, right.

How do you set your goals, whether it be monthly or quarterly or annually, and, what- what key performance indicators, or KPIs is the industry term, are set up that give you an idea of how things are driven?

How success, if you look at certain key performance indicators, it should tell you, if it's done the right way, whether you're trending in a positive direction or trending in a negative direction. know, one of the things that, that you need to do is you need to track data, to prove success or failure under-performance.

[00:08:44] One of the things that, that I learned really early on in my career, in- in my sales career when I worked for Wells Fargo, was a program that I put together. It was called the daily vitamin program.

And the daily vitamin program that I've talked about before I think on this podcast, was basically for me, as a leader of a sales team, I set up basically three to five different key metrics that I would want my employees to achieve on a daily basis to feel like they were succeeding in that given day.

Think about it as like a one a day People take vitamins to stay healthy. In whatever business you're in, setting a daily metric of success is really important.

[00:09:24] And again, when I'm talking about this through the eyes of a sales team, it maybe is a little easier to talk about certain metrics, when it comes to a sales team, but whether you're in service or ops or engineering, like th- there are daily tasks or daily measures that you can put in place, that would prove the level of success or under-performance that your employees or you as a team would have in a certain day.

[00:09:49] So, building in that process when it comes to, looking at underperforming teams, then trying to fix that, is something that is really critically important.

If you have people ... I would like if everybody can have a bad day, but if you have multiple bad days in a week, it's oftentimes mean you're gonna have a bad week, from a performance standpoint.

You could have maybe one bad week in a month, but if you have multiple bad weeks in a month, it's going to be a bad.

You may be able to have an average or a little below average month in a quarter, but you can't have multiple poor months in a quarter, to say that you're gonna have a successful quarter.

Oftentimes, that leads to, uh, a underperforming quarter.

So, it's really important to have process built and metrics in place to identify trends, And again, I'm not gonna get into the nitty-gritty details of what metrics make sense, because there's so many different people that listen to this podcast that come from different businesses.

But just know that there needs to be a process in place. A third s- action step to- to address when you're looking at underperforming teams is you have to do a talent assessment, and that talent assessment has to be 360.

As a leader of a team, the first thing you have to do is you always have to assess what's going on you guys have all heard me talk about my cornerstone philosophy of head, heart and house, part of that is, y- you have to run yourself through the head, heart and house process before you run anyone else through it, because if you're not performing on all levels with what's going on in your head, what's going on in your heart, and what's happening in your household, it's gonna be super difficult to get that out of other people, so you have to identify what's happening with your team, and some of the things that you have to do is you have to get pretty granular, right.

You have to start diving in with your individuals and understanding, what's going on with their contribution to the team, oftentimes people will take a snapshot of what's happening this week or if there's stress on that team, they'll be like, you haven't done anything this week," or, "You're really struggling this week. What's happening?"

You can't just look at the snapshot of where you're at. You really have to go backwards. and oftentimes I think you'd have to go backwards three to six months to see what is causing the reason that you're having stress on your team or your team is underperforming.

[00:11:58] Depending on your business and the length of your sales cycle, if we're looking at this maybe through a sales team, aspect, or some type of production team, uh, things don't happen overnight, right.

So you'd have to understand your business model, right. If you're in a transactional business, you- you may not have to go back very far to look at why your team is underperforming, but if you have a business that, and a product that you're selling or a business cycle that takes a while to see success or to make, some type of exchange of that product that you're selling or the business that, uh, services that you're offering, you have to equate the sales cycle with how far you go back, right.

[00:12:36] Because if you have an underperforming team and your sales cycle is four to six months, you're, that person that is on your team that's underperforming, they can't just snap a finger and all of a sudden start performing more effectively, with maybe deals being closed because they, it's gonna take them four to six months to find new deals, right.

So you have to understand your own business and your own process to, in- in- in your sales cycle to understand what- what comes next. in addition to it, you need to understand, uh, and identify when the last time you've had one-on-one conversations with your team.

When it comes to assessing talent, you need to be interacting with your team on- on a daily and weekly basis. I know for- for the multitude of different teams that I've managed or manage currently, I may not have a one-on-one every single week with my people, but I will have some type of communication with them, We'll have some type of interaction to understand what's happening, I have dashboards built within my CRM that tell me trends and- and metrics and things of that nature, and I manage to the human being, but I am informed by certain measures and reporting that we build within our businesses. But it's really important to make sure that you as a leader make time to have open communication and open feedback 360 with your team, and then when you're doing that, during those assessments, during those one-on-ones, you need to be addressing, or at least understanding with your employees what's going on in their head, what's going on in their heart and what's happening in their household, if there's a stressful situation happening at home, that could be one of the causes for their under-performance at an individual basis.

And if you're got a, if you've got a team of five or six people and three of which are having outside issues of work and it's affecting what they're working, it's pretty clear as to why the team may be underperforming, So you have to be aware and you have to understand that. And then also when it comes to this talent assessment, you have to understand w- the effort of the individual.

What type of effort are you as an individual putting forth to pull your team out of this lack of performance, But then also, you have to sit down, you have to understand and assess what's going on with the effort of your, of your employees, so are they trying or are they just not, right?

Are they distracted all day? Are they not, are- are they missing daily metrics? Are they achieving their, daily vitamins and things of that nature? if effort is an issue that's a really big problem.

I normally say to my teams like, "Anything else can be fixed besides the effort problem," so like for execution, if they're working hard, but they're just struggling to get the, get the business closed or get to that next step, you can continually coach and try to teach, um, how to make that happen, but if they're not trying, the answer is pretty much there.

You'd have to address the fact that, hey, we don't see the effort, and I need you to do X, Y and Z to make sure the effort's set forth, and if not, you can't be a part of the team. I mean, that's just, it's as easy as that.

But you have to make sure that you are- are addressing those things and you have some type of consistency of assessing your team and assessing the talent on your team and what's happening.

And then another step in this process is, looking at the culture of your company and your company as a whole. So, you have to zoom out and look at the entire organization and what's happening in the culture of the organization. does the, uh, is the company as a whole struggling at- at this moment, or is it just your team, right? is there under-performance consistently happening, right?

Is that part of the culture, there are teams that succeed in spite of themselves, but oftentimes if under-performance is just something that's accepted, it's something that will continually plague the organization.

So, you have to of zoom out and look at what is happening. when y- you also look at the underperforming of a team, is it tying into the global goals of the organization?

If you can communicate how your team's lack of performance affects the umbrella of the company and there's an understanding that we all need to do our jobs to- to effectively have this business run, that way you can start to get consensus with your teams and they can feel like they're part of something bigger, right.

People who buy into the team and buy into the culture, they will feel an obligation to fix their issues, if they're more of a lone wolf, more of an individual, only have selfish desires to succeed based on whatever their individual goal is and they're not buying into the culture that's gonna be something that's gonna be very difficult to overcome.

[00:16:52] So, it is really important when you're addressing these things to understand what's happening around you outside of your department silo, because, uh, a lot of that can be informed, in a positive and negative manner.

So regardless of the talent, individuals that don't support the company vision and don't have alignment with organizational goals, they just can't be on your team anymore, that's a non-started, right.

We can't argue about that.

That can't be something that we deal with.

If you're not on board with the company vision, the company mission, you're not in a team aspect and you're not in support of everyone in a common goal, you just can't be on the team, right.

There- there likely would be a different place and an individual performance type of position at a different company, but if you're not on board with that, you gotta go.

And then finally an action item is, last action item we're gonna talk about is the action portion, of what comes next.

So for example, we talked about, looking at, the alignment to goals.

We're looking at process.

We're looking at talent, company and culture fits, but the final one is taking action, clarity is critical in the action portion, right.

As a leader, you need to be clear with the goals, expectations, benchmarks in the future, dates, things of that nature of what can be expected in the future.

If you have an underperforming team that you're managing or that you're taking over, you can't change the past.

All you can change is the future. the way future gets changed is by taking the right action consistently and you move it forward.

And what you have to do is you have to make sure your team comes together. You have to pull your team together, and you must give everybody an opportunity to respond to the challenges, a lot of times I'll hear people say, that guy's not performing, so I'm just gonna fire them.

I'm just gonna terminate them. I'm just gonna get rid of them. They're not doing what I'm paying them to do."

And oftentimes, may- maybe they do deserve to be terminated, but what I would say is you need to make sure that you very clearly, very directly talk to the individual or the team that is underperforming.

Let them know what what you don't like, what you would like them to do in the future with some training and coaching around it, and what your expectations are with dates and times and metrics associated with it.

So, you have to be, you as a leader have to be clear with your actions.

Like I said, too often I see people that they just, they're ready to give up and throw in the towel, and the world we live in, turnover is always a killer for organizations. It's so much easier to coach up someone you have than go find somebody new.

With the only caveat of, if they are, if that employee that's underperforming, if they're always bucking the system, if they don't want to buy into the company culture and mission, then they have to go.

But for the most part, that isn't a common thread. If you can address the team as a whole and then address those individuals with clear actionable items moving forward, you have a chance to pull out of the tailspin and get the nose of the plane back going in the right direction and back in the, in the goal achievement side of the world, and- and also, sometimes teams need a reset, right.

There's, you- you have to be able to understand that sometimes bad months happen. Sometimes even a bad year happens if there are, if there are outside factors that you can't control, but you have to be connected to the team.

You have to always be communicating.

[00:20:02] One of the things that's been really common in- in what I've done as a leader is performance improvement plans or, know, some people in the industry call them PIPs, standing for performance improvement plans. and these work. I- I worked with people that had, that are on performance improvement plans and they work themselves off, because I've clearly communicated to these folks that, hey, you're underperforming.

We need to fix this. we pay you to do these things, but I'm here to help pull you out of this under-performance or lack of performance, and to help you become successful again.

And, if you can do these things properly, you're gonna have an employee that really buys in, But if you're gonna put somebody in a PIP just to fire them and set unachievable goals, you may as well just get rid of them to begin with.

But it's so critical to use those types of situations, to really build trust within your team. when you're communicating honestly and effectively with your team members, they're gonna want to, they're gonna want to change, likely. but it's always about clear, direct and honest communication. as a leader, you owe it to your team members, you owe it to the company that has put you in this leadership situation, and you need to let all the people that work with you and for you, you need to let them know where they stand, So, really critical to communicate the effective way.

[00:21:17] So in recap, as we discussed, there are so many different ways that you can address and tackle underperforming teams.

These are just five different takeaways that I'm trying to, on a real basic level, help you guys, think about, and potentially put into, put into place in a pretty easy and effective way, but it's, you have to discuss your alignment and goals. If your team's underperforming, you reset and discuss the alignment of the goals.

You have to review your current process. How and why did this performance slip through the cracks? What are you missing and what do you need to implement in the future to make sure that doesn't happen?

[00:21:49] Three, that's the human capital and talent assessment, right.

You have to understand your people. You have to understand yourself first, and you have to understand what's going on with your people under-performers, the high achievers, all of them need to make sure that you're doing the right level of assessments.

Four, you need to understand what's going on in the company and what is the culture of your company, so if there's outside factors affecting your company and then the culture isn't good, it's going to permeate through the different teams, within your organization.

So, you need to make sure you're doing an audit of what's happening with the culture of your company and what's going on with your company as a whole.

[00:22:23] And then finally, it's taking action.

Whether it's performance improvements plans, or just having more consistent one-on-ones on a weekly or biweekly basis, direct, honest, clear communication is so critical to make sure that you ca- that- that you have an opportunity to turn this team around, again, a few actionable steps that you can put in place, not all encompassing, but if you're having an issue today with your team, run your team through these five steps and see what you can do to turn the, program around.

So as we finish up this second episode of season three, as I promised last week, we're gonna be talking about very specific situations with very specific takeaways to help you out in your everyday business life.

Also last week, we discussed that I have a newly revamped website, and you can find all my content there. If there's anything you want to go back to from a show notes standpoint, different episodes or even this episode, we'll have links to everything that you're looking for at

[00:23:21] And then finally, if you're a business owner or you're a leader trying to work through a specific issue, or maybe it's a specific issue like this with an underperforming team and you feel like you need some outside help or you need, just somebody to run some ideas through, I have opened up some time in my schedule and on my website. it's under the coaching tab on my website, where you can book me for either 45 or 90 minutes to work through some very specific consulting or very specific problem solving.

So, if you find yourself listening to this episode and you want more help or if it's something very unrelated to this episode, visit my website at, click on the coaching tab, where you can book me for 45 or 90 minutes, and I will help you work through issues that your businesses face with today, and help build some confidence in where you're going.

[00:24:18] So, really appreciate the time you've spent with me today. Thank you for keeping me company. I'm Jason Pearl. This is The Company We Keep podcast. Until next time, I'm out. Peace.