Staff Performance: 14 Tips for Mentoring Poor Artists


Staff performance sometimes falls short of expectations. You decide you need to “chat” with an employee whose performance is poor. These 14 advisory tips will help you.

1. It’s about performance, not behavior. You should be concerned with behavior only if it affects performance.

2. Make sure the employee is absolutely sure of two things

• the precise performance you expect

• how that performance will be measured.

If there is even the slightest doubt about it, vigorously enforce the standards.

3. Have clear goals for the interview. Make it clear to the concerned employee before you begin.

4. Avoid questions that start with “Why”? They generate speculation, opinion and defensive attitude. If you want accurate information, ask questions that begin with “What?” “WHO?” “Which?” “When and how? “

5. Take a “question” approach, not a “reprimand” approach. You want to know what happened and how to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Personal criticism will not accomplish this.

6. Paraphrasing: review the information you receive with constant paraphrasing. Remember, you are not trying to win an argument. You are trying to obtain information that you can act on to improve staff performance.

7. Ask the employee how he thinks he should have handled the situation. You want them to improve, not reinforce poor performance.

8. Avoid arguments. You are not trying to prove who is right and who is wrong. You want a specific improvement in job performance, not a debated victory.

9. Encourage employee contribution. You don’t just want them to feel free to speak freely. You want their recommendations for improvements to ensure that a similar problem does not reoccur.

10. Focus on the future. What done is done. What happens next time is what really matters.

11. Positive performance reinforcement. Make sure the employee knows what they are doing well and what you want them to continue to do well.

12. Get an agreement on the action to take. Clarify any doubts the employee has about the performance he / she expects in the future.

13. Ask for their opinion on any system improvements needed to ensure that the error does not recur. The problem may be due to a poor system rather than personnel error.

14. Avoid threats. Focus on performance and contribution of staff members to future business results.

Other issues

  • Try to address serious performance deficiencies as they occur. Do not want it until you have repeated failures before taking corrective action. It is easier to rectify one mistake than the cumulative effect of many mistakes.
  • Resist the temptation to fire the staff member unless the mistake is extremely damaging to the company. It costs much less to regain the performance of an existing employee than to fire them and hire a replacement.

But Leon … you are “soft”

It may feel like I’m being “soft” with a wandering staff member. I am not. I just want to make sure that you give him every opportunity to improve. That is the best for you.

If you just want to “give them a rocket,” go for it. That is your choice. But don’t be fooled into believing that “rockets” will create a long-term performance improvement.


When it’s time to take action on poor performance, make sure that’s what you do. Tripping over the ego, winning arguments, and playing mind games will not improve job performance.

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