One of the most challenging questions I repeatedly get from leaders is, not surprisingly, about people. Not just any people – the question is most often about an individual who hasn’t been able or willing to keep up with the demands of the job. These may be one of the thorniest situations a leader ever faces.

In many cases, the person isn’t willfully rejecting the challenge to get better – it’s a personal capacity issue. And, in the most difficult of these cases, the person has actually done good work in the past. To top it off, these men and women are often long-term, loyal members of the team. What do you do?

There is certainly no formula I’ve discovered for responding to these situations – I struggle with this too! However, there are some things we can do to make this challenge more approachable.

Give crystal clear expectations . I’ve actually seen people do a 180-degree turn when expectations are clarified – Shame on me for not making them clear from the beginning. Don’t assume people know what is expected – guarantee it.

Give people resources. If someone is struggling to fulfill their responsibilities, or to grow with the demands of the role, be sure they have the resources they need. Clearly, this is highly situational, but critical nonetheless. Do they need training? A mentor? Leaders provide resources.

Give people time. Don’t expect miracles regarding the cycle time on a turnaround. If someone is really struggling, be realistic. You may not see the changes you desire in days or weeks. It may take months. However, you can’t afford for these situations to go on forever; you’ll ultimately need the next idea.

Give the gift of accountability. No plan should be allowed to go on indefinitely. Set a goal – with deadlines. Monitor progress and talk candidly about the prospects for the future. Don’t let people live in denial and don’t let them be surprised if things don’t turn out like you both want them to.

Before we make a decision that will alter the life and career of an employee, we want to be sure we’ve done all we could to help him or her be successful. Truett Cathy, the founder of Chick-fil-A challenged me years ago by telling me you can’t build a career by terminating people – you want to build a reputation for helping people be successful. Although that’s always the goal, sometimes it will not be possible for them to be successful in your organization.

When you’ve done the items I’ve outlined here and the issue remains, I have five additional suggestions to help you make hard people decisions. More on that next week…[GLS_Shield]

Author: Mark Miller

Mark is a business leader, author, communicator, photographer, husband, and father. He spends his time helping leaders grow.