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Embrace the Suck! Handle issues early!

Updated: Jul 18, 2019

Building relationships and connectedness is the core value of having great leaders. The relationships open the door to many other valuable avenues such as managing a performance issue. Consider the following:



Difficult performance conversations are created by the manager not managing the situation all along. The stress of a tough conversation is generated from not confronting the issue with extreme caring through a transparent relationship where safety is created for communications. A failing employee is chugging along thinking either he/she has fooled everyone or that the less-than-average performance is acceptable. There hasn’t been any coaching for his/her approach.


Information flow should increase in times of poor and great performance. By not engaging in dialogue for the employee to fully understand any disconnect, the silence increases the element of surprise when the breaking point is reached. Failing to set the expectations and to provide the resources and the caring necessary to build a relationship as the leader is really a disservice to the employee.


As leaders we must examine our own handling of these situations. Did we provide all the information? Did we empower the employee to act? Did we place an employee in a role that did not play to his/her strengths? Willink and Babin in Extreme Ownership point to the leader as the owner of this kind of failure. To avoid a very difficult surprise attack on an employee, take the moderately difficult tact of increasing the coaching before it becomes counseling or a discharge. Be a mentor by demonstrating what good looks like. When they struggle, ask them what support from you or someone else looks like. What works for them? At least if you get to a discharge situation, you can say confidently, “Nathan, we have both put a lot of effort into this role for you. It seems to me ether you are not interested in the role or it doesn’t play to your strengths. Does it feel the same to you?" Ending #1: I have some ideas about a transfer that could better fit your skills. Ending #2: I think we should agree to part ways and have you pursue a position outside of the company that better suits your desires and the company’s needs.

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