It’s tempting, when you’re faced with an under-performing employee, to jump in with both feet and micro-manage them – not only instructing them exactly how a job should be done, but involving yourself in the minutae of the how and when of every step along the way.
Necessary as you may feel this is, Amy Arnstein, professor of neuroscience at Yale University, tells us you’re actually decreasing your worker’s cognitive functioning when you micro-manage, as it inevitably lowers workers’ ability to perform. The math is obvious: if your worker can’t think at their best, there’s no way he or she will perform at their best.
You see, from the time we are two years old, most of us want to “do it myself!” It gives us the sense of being in control, and people thrive when they feel some measure of control over whatever is going on in their lives.
Of course, you can’t tell an employee struggling with a performance issue “Just do whatever you want,” that’s a recipe for disaster. What you can do, is provide clear guidance, make sure the employee has understood what is expected and how to achieve the desired outcome, and then back off.
Give your worker permission to ask you questions any time, and honor that permission. Assign a co-worker as “buddy” if appropriate. Provide a checklist of the necessary or desired steps. Then leave them to it.
You’ve given your employee a sense of control over their work, which will almost always increase their level of confidence, and with it, their ability to perform at their best.