An article about a one-way mission to Mars published in the New York Post caught my attention. The article was based on an idea by two scientists who believe that a trip to Mars would be possible and one of their reasons was it would cost one-quarter of the price of a “there-and-back” mission.
So this caused me to think; wouldn’t be great if dealing with an unproductive team member was as easy as sending them on a one-way trip, never to return again. Certainly in many cases, you as the leader of a team, may have that option and can just send them packing. But what do you do if you have no control over who’s on your team? What if your boss says they must remain on the team or if it’s a volunteer organization and they were elected to their position? What do you do then?
You then must find out why this member is not productive. There could be several reasons and you can begin by asking several questions:
- How well do I know this person? – Have I spent enough time with him to understand what motivates him or what makes him laugh or cry?
- Has this person been properly trained? – Was enough time taken to ensure that he knows his responsibilities and was given the information and training to succeed?
- Are there roadblocks or people interfering with his ability to do his job? – Have I, as the leader, made sure that significant impediments are cleared for him?
- Have I provided encouragement and motivation?
- Are the other team members supporting him and his efforts?
Answering these questions will help you understand why a team member is unproductive. Everyone wants to succeed, but sometimes things beyond their control or ability will cause them to appear unproductive. It is your job as the leader to train team members and anticipate possible problems for and solve them before they hamper progress.
So many times we complain about the non-performance of a team member without ever finding out why he or she is not performing. Spend time with them, understand their strengths and weaknesses, and help them develop a plan to carry out their assigned tasks.
Don’t be so eager to send someone on a one-way trip to Mars without first doing your job as a leader.