Every company has underperformers. Sometimes they are just not up to the task or a poor culture fit. Sometimes, however, it's not entirely the employee's fault. There are plenty of bad bosses out there as well.
Many people come to positions of power without proper skills or training for managing and leading people. They get their management positions because they were good performers or it was their turn in seniority. Too many companies promote people without helping them learn how to lead and manage. Then all are surprised when performance and morale suffers.
You can help prepare yourself to be a great leader. Start with these actions:
1. Be genuine
Just because you are in charge doesn't mean you are smarter or better than the people who work for you. They can tell when you're lying or patronizing them, and while they many not point it out for fear of retribution, they will lose respect quickly and do the bare minimum to satisfy you. Be yourself and be direct. Most people would rather you honestly tell them things they don't want to hear than have you candy coat or omit important information. This holds true especially with criticism. If you don't tell people where they are falling short, they can't make the adjustment.
2. Sweat the details
Employees get frustrated when they spend time on projects that never should have been started or haven't been thought through. Sometimes bosses let their passion get the best of them, as they charge on without reasonable research or consideration. Just because you think it's a good idea doesn't make it so. Do your homework first, or involve the team in looking at the possibilities with an equal amount of excitement and skepticism. And be ready to let things go when the details and research don't support your case. That way, there is less frustration coming from false starts and dead ends.
3. Pay attention
People know when you are watching and listening. Unfortunately, many bosses are busy looking at the task at hand and forget to listen to the people around them. This makes employees feel disconnected and unappreciated. Dedicate time for feedback, and take a personal interest in their advancement. If you don't care about their contribution, why should they perform beyond the minimum?
4. Provide proper tools
Often, people can't perform because they lack the structure, knowledge, and tools to achieve their best. You can crack the whip all you like on someone trying to break rocks, but they will perform much better with a jackhammer, or at least a sledgehammer and a chisel. Think through the needs of your employees and provide the best resources and training you can afford. Not only will they be able to up their output, they'll have greater appreciation for your consideration.
5. Lead through example
"Do as I say and not as I do" is a clear instigator to poor performance for the team. You will never create a culture of conformity if you are always the noticeable exception. If the standards you set for your employees are too hard for you to follow, change the standards. Set behaviors that support productivity and adherence at all levels. Otherwise, your very actions give permission for others to disregard the rules.
6. Maintain consistency
Nothing is more frustrating to an employee than arbitrary standards. Most people are looking to meet or exceed expectations, but if the bar is set differently for everyone or constantly changing, employees can't get a point of reference and will soon just give up. Set clear standards and expectations for everyone and then reward for overachievement. Keep exceptions rare and discouraged. Help the team move together and you'll have fewer stragglers.
7. Show some gratitude
It's true that many people work for a paycheck, but money alone is not enough to inspire most. If you assume people feel appreciated from financial incentives alone, you'll have a poor performing crowd. People want to feel useful and they want to grow. Show them you care about their trajectory. Not that a bonus hurts, but find ways to show your appreciation that hit on a more personal note than just a boost in their paychecks.