Did you get potatoes in your stocking?

by Viv Cole on January 10, 2013

Now that the festive season is becoming a distant memory and the kids are back at school, the magic fabric of Christmas has begun to fray a bit in the Cole household. And I admit, I’m to blame. Let me try to explain…

It all began with me telling my children that if you’re good, Santa will fill your stocking with presents. If you’re bad, he’ll swap one or more of those presents for potatoes (I know of some families who prefer to threaten coal, but as a threat is something that you should be prepared to carry out, I’ve never thought that the combination of coal and cream carpets make for a happy marriage). I was delighted that neither daughter had behaved in a way to deserve a potato and a happy Christmas was had by all.

It was upon the return to school that the issue came into focus. Our eldest took it upon herself to go round asking if any of her classmates had received potatoes. She was surprised to find out that noone had, as she’s well aware that some kids in her class are sometimes bad. It’s taken quite some explaining…

This has interesting parallels to management. As a leader/ manager, it’s your responsibility to ensure that people on your team get appropriate feedback and that action is taken when they underperform. One thing that you can guarantee will demotivate your above average performers is seeing people being allowed to underperform with no consequences. If the rules of the game are that people who underperform get ‘potatoes’, it’s your job to ensure that they get ‘potatoes’ (promptly, constructively and skillfully).

Fortunately for me Christmas comes but once a year so I’ve got plenty of time to get my story straight. Whereas for managers, people on your team could be underperforming daily. If you’ve noticed that someone is underperforming, the chances are that others in the team have already noticed (and it will be affecting their motivation) so it’s time to gather specific examples to hand and initiate the performance conversation about that issue that you’re pretending will magically go away on its own…Wishing you every success in 2013.




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