How Managers Coach and Turnaround an Underperformer in 30 Days or Less


Every manager has been in this difficult position. “How do I handle an underperformer?”

Unfortunately, the three typical courses of action managers take are:

  1. To do nothing and hope things get better. But the last time I checked, HOPE is not a strategy.
  2. Number two, being seduced by the potential they see in the underperformer, hoping and waiting, “If they just focus on process and activity and be positive, they can do this!”

Then 6 months or a year passes by, and you’re still waiting for them to turn around their performance or attitude.

  1. And finally giving up on that person and placing them on an HR complaint process.

Let me introduce you to a fourth option.

The 30 Day Turnaround Strategy or if you prefer, the Success Acceleration  Program. Whatever you call it, keep in mind this is simply four weeks of ongoing, scheduled coaching and observation. Rather than struggling with the stress of having to fire someone, now, the outcome will be the person either choosing to self-select out or back into their position.

Since you’re the one initiating the conversation, first enroll them in this idea.

“What I want for you is to achieve the success you want in your career. I’m committed to supporting you to do so, however, what’s more important is your commitment to your own success.”

Let’s look at what you are committed to doing, set some measurable activities and results to achieve in order to turn around your performance.

Based on the outcome after four weeks, you’ll be able to make the best decision for you, whether you feel this position is a great fit or not. And please know that I’ll support you and your decision either way.

How do you feel about this approach that we can work through together?”

Once they commit, schedule the first session to identify the activities and results to complete prior to the second session.

A word of caution. Don’t set them up for failure. Make sure the first session commitments are ones they can easily honor to get some quick wins that will start rebuilding their confidence.

During the three remaining sessions, you will experience one of four outcomes:

  1. They honor all their commitments. Congratulate them and in pure coaching form, have them set commitments for the next session.
  2. They honor some of their commitments. Congratulate them for what was done, then coach the Gap or what they missed.
  3. They didn’t honor or complete any of their commitments and finally,
  4. They didn’t show up for the meeting.

These last two situations require asking a direct question. “Are you still committed to working together to turn around your performance?”

Let’s Now Recap the Benefits of this Program. 

Okay! Here you are! At the end of 30 days. Let’s identify what you’ve accomplished. 

  1. At this point, they’ve made their decision around their own career, not you. It’s their decision to honor the commitments they’ve made. That’s why they’re either firing or hiring themselves, not you!
  2. You’ve created a positive strategy to support those who need it most.
  3. You’re finally collecting evidence of change in activity, attitude, and results. This gives you certainty rather than falling into the trap of being seduced by their potential.
  4. And finally, your team sees the unconditional stand you’ve taken for each person on your team, modeling and reinforcing the positive environment and trusting culture you want, and how you want to be known as a leader.

One critical point to remember. DO NOT INSTITUTIONALIZE THIS PROGRAM! This is an organic, four-week coaching program, not an HR-complaint tool. It’s meant to avoid any compliant action.

Remember, the easiest way to avoid having to deal with underperformers is by always honoring the ABC’s of leadership so you can address issues when they’re infancy before becoming too big, and too late.

That is, Always Be Coaching!

This creates the legacy and brand you want to have as a leader tomorrow – and today.