Fifteen Causes of Underperformance

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Every six to eight weeks mentors and mentees of The Rainer Club Mentor Program attend meetings so mentees can gain greater insight as to how they can benefit from participating in the program, and mentors can learn how to become more effective. It’s always an engaging and fun time and frankly, as the facilitator, I learn a tremendous amount from listening to what people have to say.

Hugh’s Bold Statement:

In order to facilitate learning and growth within others you have to first facilitate learning and growth within yourself.

Here’s what I mean. Last night I had an agenda I thought was just right, but after starting the evening by asking the question “what do you see as the reasons for underperformance,” the group’s responses taught me in real time what was important and led to a better agenda.

What you need to know:

In my book: 7 Principles of Transformational Leadership: Create a Mindset of Passion, Innovation and Growth, I recommend leaders to become continual learners. It is not possible to create a learning, growing and flourishing organization if the leader is stuck in thinking the same way they always have. Being a continual learner requires three strategies:

1. Stop trying to be a know it all

Too often leaders are under the erroneous impression that they need to have all the answers. The notion is that if they can know the answers they will decrease the time to success. That’s true in that it increases expedience, but it also reduces an employees learning and growth.

Learning and growth requires wrestling with not having all the answers so new information is sought out and new perspectives are considered. Leaders who want a learning organization that is committed to flourishing employees act as a mentor to each employee and cultivate what I call 4th Dimension Thinking. This involves thinking four steps ahead of where an employee is today.

2. Consider the alternatives

The ability for employees to look at issues from multiple perspectives, objectively consider the available information, and make informed decisions about for what to do next is in short supply. Oftentimes it’s because people are over scheduled, overworked and overwhelmed, but it is also oftentimes because employees don’t know how to do so.

When there is no process for considering the alternatives, the leader must step into the breach and teach employees how to do so. A simple question leaders can ask is: What information do you have, what insights can you glean, what is the impact of your insights and what do you recommend we implement. This 4-I process is a powerful process for thinking critically.

3. Be genuinely curious

Curiosity is vital for a learning organization. Without curiosity we rely heavily on what we’ve always known and believed and resist stretching our thinking with new perspectives. My mother once admonished me to read three different perspective of an issue before opening my mouth. She said I should read a proponent’s perspective, an opponent’s and a neutral third party. In my teens and twenties I did so out of obligation and because I was adhering to a recommendation from a powerful and well-read woman but without much curiosity.

Now I’m genuinely curious about why people hold the views they do. As my maturation process has deepened I’m less inclined to see people as ill informed, naive or lazy for their views. I see their views as rooted in life experiences and the mentors who shaped their thinking. It’s only after understanding a person’s backstory can I engage in a respectful and meaningful conversation.

Monday Morning Mindset Challenge:

Review the fifteen causes of underperformance listed below and identify two or three that are impacting you and your team. At your next team meeting, discuss what strategies you can implement to address them. By doing so you’ll send a clear message about underperformance no longer being tolerated and become a role model for learning and growth.

Confusion over values

No accountability

Bad metrics

Measuring the wrong things

Bad bosses

Fear of failure


Lack of focus

Conflicting priorities

Negative mindset

Poor skillset

Poor organizational structure


Not recognizing high performance

Valuing money more than people

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