Driving team performance is one of the most important aspects of leadership.

Unfortunately, it’s also one of the things that leaders screw up most!

Anyone who’s ever dealt with performance issues knows solving them is anything but easy.

But most leaders miss one step that would make their job way easier.

In doing so, they make it impossible to do one of the most important things in running a successful business – putting people at the center of your organization.

By taking the time to understand why a problem is occurring, you make it far easier to solve the challenge.

If you can go a step further and understand someone as a whole, it gets even easier. But allow me to explain first.

You Can’t Solve a Problem Until You Understand It

Imagine if you had a doctor who prescribed medication before diagnosing your condition. Imagine if they encouraged you to start taking this new medication before they really understood why you were feeling a certain symptom.

That would be insane, right? The odds of correctly treating the condition would be very low. Even worse, there’s a good chance that the “cure” could cause even more problems without alleviating the condition in the first place!

That’s kind of what it’s like if you try to improve a team member’s performance without understanding why it’s happening, or what might motivate them to improve.

When you are dealing with a performance issue, you must work to understand why it’s happening. Is it happening because someone lacks vital skills? Do they need more training? Is it a motivation issue, or do they need support to help them remember key tasks?

Each of these situations would require a vastly different approach to solve them.

Leverage One-on-Ones to Understand Your People

I always say leadership isn’t a team sport…it’s a one-on-one sport.

When getting to know someone and forming a relationship, there’s no substitute for a one-on-one conversation. It offers you an opportunity to learn about someone that you simply can’t get in a group setting.

Ultimately, leadership is about the relationships we have with our team members on a one-on-one level.

If someone on your team is struggling or underperforming, ask open-ended questions to understand the issue. Ask what’s happened so far, how they’ve tried to solve the problem, and what they feel might be good next steps. Approach the issue from a learning rather than judgmental perspective.

Even when you’re not dealing with a performance issue, spend the time to get to know your people – their strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes about work, and their motivations. The more you know someone, the better you can help them grow.

Leverage Understanding to Coach Your People to Become Better

At the end of the day, a team member’s performance is up to them.

We can help support a team member, but they have to choose to up their game for themselves. Whether it’s fixing a problem or simply a great performer taking things to the next level, it’s got to be a decision someone makes themselves.

But as a leader, you can guide and coach someone to improve themselves. If you understand why they’re struggling and why they might be motivated to improve, you have a huge advantage. Remind the team member what motivates them in the workplace, and tie that into their personal goals.

It could be earning a promotion to advance their career, working for a raise to help build a college fund for their children, or earning more recognition across the company.

Remind them of what they stand to gain – and how if they put in their best effort, they can make it happen!

The OpenBlend platform is tremendously valuable here. It helps you AND your team track their goals, motivations and progress. If you’re managing a team of several people, it can be challenging to keep track of all these moving parts. OpenBlend logs of all these pieces in one place, allowing you and your teams to stay on track while working on goals. It also helps leaders choose the right talking points for each one-on-one conversation.

You Have to KNOW Your People to Grow Your People

The first step in improving anything is understanding your starting position. When you put in the time and effort to really get to know your people, you can start the process of helping your people grow and improve. Remember, your job as a leader is not to make your people happy but to make your people better!