“The greatest barrier to someone achieving their potential is their denial of it” (Simon Travaglia)

Managers have a responsibility to assist employees with performance improvement. They thus often must deal with interference – anything that stands in the way of employees reaching their potential. Interference can include avoidance by the employee of certain types of work or responsibilities; poor work ethic or work habits; procrastination; moodiness; poor attitude; etc. This behaviour is often symptomatic of something more fundamental like fear (of failure, rejection, or criticism), self-doubt, low self-esteem, or a lack of confidence.

Interference plays a negative role, blocking action to be taken by employees and hindering performance. Managers need to explore the ‘blockers’ that the employees may or may not recognise. Some of the most common cited by the company, Free To Grow, include the following:

  • Fear – understanding the fear and whether it is fact or fiction. If irrational, work through it until the employee finds a satisfactory way to resolve the fear. Fear, at times, can be a great motivator and be part of the process of moving forward.
  • Anxiety – has anxiety become a habit for the employee or is it a real response to a particular challenge or situation? Anxiety, while often legitimate, does not solve the problem, so managers, with the employee, need to turn it into action.
  • Procrastination – this is one of the most common ways to avoid action. Managers should explore and work through the reasons why employees are putting things off.
  • Catastrophising – thinking of the worst-case scenario and predicting the worst possible outcome(s). These are often false pictures of reality. Managers should challenge employee thinking to arrive at more likely scenarios.
  • Complaining – sometimes staying with complaints is more comfortable than finding solutions. It provides sympathy and something about which to talk. Managers should recognise when employees are stuck in a complaining mode and challenge them towards forward momentum.
  • Avoidance – coming up with reasons to deflect the importance of a situation, or going off on a tangent, both to avoid dealing with the real issues. Managers should acknowledge what is being said but bring focus back to the main issues.
  • Independence – it is unhelpful when employees behave in a manner that suggests that they have no need of anyone’s assistance (including the manager’s help), or when they perceive asking for help as a sign of weakness. Managers should discuss with the employee the difference between healthy and unhealthy independence, and the cost of the latter.
  • Low self-esteem/lack of confidence – at the centre of much below-potential performance lies a low self-esteem. People perform within the boundaries of their self-image. If an employee lacks confidence from a low self-esteem, development work is important.

For the employee, self-awareness needs to be developed. Managers have a part to play in getting employees to question what they do and say in particular situations to increase their self-awareness of potential ‘blockers’.

Free To Grow provides the workshops “Coach 2 Excel’ and ‘Helping People Grow’ to assist managers with coaching their employees (www.freetogrow.com).

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