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Move employees up the performance bell curve
The Performance Bell Curve

Do you remember something called the ‘Bell Curve’ from your school days? When applied to work performance, it basically means that most people (68%) are in the middle and have average quality of work while 16% are high performers and naturally the other 16% are low performers.
“We fire all our low 16%” laughingly said a friend who owns a successful mid sized company. I knew what he meant because some work cultures have little resources to waste on investing in low performers to get them to become average. Don’t you wish you worked for him?
I’ve long been singing the praises of the use of coaching skills to develop leaders such as intentional listening, questioning and acknowledging skills but what do we use for those average and low performers?
In my workshops, I teach managers about a tool called DIRECT (a pretty acronym for an ugly conversation). DIRECT is used in performance management conversations where an expectation is not being met and needs to change.

Be DIRECT to Move Your Employees Up the Performance Curve

I’ll take you through an example to demonstrate:
D-I-R-E-C-T is made up of the following components:


This is where you tell them what’s wrong. “Alice, you’re coming in late every morning”


Summarize the impact to the organization, team or individual. “Your tardiness is causing our department to deliver projects past deadlines”


Outline the performance expectations. “I expect you here at 9 here every day”


Now this is where the coaching comes in and you hand them the job of creating a solution. “What can you do to get here on time?”, “What’s stopping you?”, “What resources do you have to get over this barrier?” etc etc.


Review expectations and gain commitment to the action plan with a confirmed timeframe. “So you think if your wife drops off the kids at school, you’ll be here by 9”?


Monitor commitment to the action plan and track accountability. “I’d like to see a weekly status report on the time you get in for the next 2 months”
One last tip, remember to always have the positive intention of developing and moving your employees forward, even if it’s out of that awful ‘low’ end of the bell curve.
With kindness as always,

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