How to Upgrade Underperforming Team Members

24 March 2016 by Shweta Jhajharia

I was in a meeting with one of my clients who was having a problem with one of his team members. The conclusion that he was arriving at was that he needs to motivate more and then the person would perform better.

To make sure he was making the right decision when it came to what kind of input would be required, I showed him this framework. As soon as he saw this framework, he realised that he didn’t actually need to “motivate” this person…

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Once you place your team members within this framework that I have explained, you can then clearly see which strategies you should be using to get them to perform to the best of their ability in your business.

The Framework

What I want to share with you today is a framework, which will help you unlock higher performance from your team.

Now, I was in a meeting with one of my clients and he was having a problem with one of his team members. And we were sitting down and looking at different possibilities, and the conclusion he was arriving at was that he just needs to motivate this particular person a little bit more. And hopefully the person will start performing more.

Now that’s fine, but just to make sure he was making the right decision in terms of the input that was required by the team, I shared with him a framework and as soon as the client saw the framework, he was like; “I don’t need to motivate this person, he needs more directive management.”

Now that’s very interesting, so let’s have a look at the framework because it might help you understand that what input is required for what team member, because that’s what makes a huge difference in management, and helping people achieve their best. So let’s have a look.

The Two Axes

So, simple two axis as you can see – on the horizontal axis what you put is “H”. And I’m really keeping it very simple, basically “Hard Work”. On the vertical axis, it’s “Competence”.

So this is the capability of working hard, putting in those hours or running those laps. And the vertical axis is basically the competence, the intelligence, the capability that the person has for their role.

The Quadrants

Now if I draw a simple grid here, you have this. If a team member is not showing competence in terms of what they are doing, and also they are not putting in those laps – then this is something called “IB” or “Iceberg”.

What that means is that you look at this person and you’re hoping that they will show you more than what’s visible right now. And maybe they will start performing and start being more competent, and that’s the whole. Because over the surface, you’re not seeing much. And you just want to want to see more.

Now, this person who is actually willing to work very hard and they are the ones who will put in whatever hours it takes and they are motivated and they are driven, they are keen but you know that there’s a ceiling in terms of their intelligence or in terms of their competence. And what you’d call these people is “WH” or “Work Horse”. So they are the keen people, but there’s only so much, there is a capability constraint.

Now, this section is quite an interesting one and actually relatively a bigger problem and more prevalent in businesses, and you call these people “Problem Child”. What that means is that they are competent individuals, and smart and intelligent individuals but it’s more like; “I know what I have to do, you can’t tell me better what I already know.” And they do not want to put in that work which is required for them to move into this quadrant.

And this quadrant obviously is the one where I’m sure you would want your team to be, and the point that you need to understand here is that if a person is high on competence, but not willing to put in that hard work which is required, then they are still sitting in the Problem Child quadrant. Which is not a great place to be at, but if somebody is even 5.1 here and 5.1 here, the person is actually here which is your “Star.” Right? So they are competent and they can work hard and obviously the higher the levels, you have your superstars.

The Right Quadrant for You

Now what you want as a leader, or manager is you want your Problem Childs to become Stars, and you want your Work Horse people to move up and become stars as well. For Icebergs, now in terms of what you need to do for people who are sitting here, you need to do something dramatic. It’s about changing their environment, maybe the way they are sitting, maybe with whom they are sitting. It’s just shifting something so that it’s disruptive in that sense.

But if things are not changing, they are not improving – it’s an exit. And it’s for you to then evaluate saying “Where did you go wrong in your recruitment process?” Something was not right, you didn’t evaluate the candidate properly and it should not happen often. It should be a one-off case actually, and the client that I was talking about – the team member was this. Very keen, very willing to work as hard as required, but not really moving up.

Now that person does not really require that nice motivational conversation, this person requires directive management – where you need to tell them where to channel their energies, their efforts, they need that direction because they are willing to do the hard work right?

For Problem Child, that’s an interesting one – the more you try to motivate them, the more they will find intelligent logic and reasons why they are not doing what they have to do. For them multiple things can be done, but I’ll just give you one thing. What you would need to tell them is basically you need to embarrass them into action. You need to shake them up by saying “Is this the best that you can do?” Because they get the message, and they don’t like that. Because in their mind, their benchmarks are quite high for themselves. And they don’t like to listen to that kind of statement, and either they will have a breakdown or a breakthrough. Most probably breakthrough, if you position that embarrassment into action strategically, and know when to do it and how to do it.

And obviously people who are here, they need to know that they are your stars. You need to tell them that you really value them, and whether it’s your training requirements, whether you’re guiding them properly, telling them to channel their energies – the idea is to keep moving them up.


So I hope that helps you to understand what inputs are required for who, and really putting your people here and helping your overall team to move in this quadrant because you know what the fact is, that your business is as good as your weakest link.

So with that, see below and you can find out more about what we do and also how we can help you and your team to perform at their best level, so that your business could achieve higher results.

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Shweta Jhajharia

Shweta Jhajharia is one of the leading authorities on Business Value Building and the creator of the unique 6M Model. Shweta is widely respected as an impactful, intelligent and results orientated professional who helps business leaders unleash their potential to reach meaningful, higher objectives. This realisation of potential and maximisation... Read more