Fixing the frustration: leadership techniques to deal with team members who cut corners

Fixing the frustration: how to deal with team members who cut corners

01 January


You are a capable thirty-something and you have taken on the responsible role of a managerial executive assistant. You are the one who has to make sure that everything runs smoothly. But time and time again you come across a team member who just doesn't perform well and makes one blunder after another. And who will be addressed first? That's right, you! You can hardly hide your frustration, because this hassle directly affects your reputation and professional integrity. But, no worries! It's time to use your leadership skills and tackle this frustration, so that the secretariat can function like a well-oiled machine again.

1. Open communication
Go for open communication with that team member. Have a confidential conversation with her and discuss concrete examples.

I remember when I was in charge of a secretariat, there was one person who always (!) made mistakes. She did the personnel administration and every mutation form had an error. I got complaints from the organization all the time; it drove me crazy. When I discussed this with her, she was a little offended at first, but then she said she just couldn't work quietly. She was constantly disturbed by colleagues. She never dared to say that, because she didn't want to come across as unkind.

So be open to listen to her side of the story and hear any concerns or frustrations. It is important to create an environment where she feels free to share her thoughts and feelings.

And finally: also take your own role into account. Many executive assistants I coach were first part of the secretariat. So the person who cut corners was a colleague. And now they are a leader. That change in hierarchy can be difficult. At first you had no say over another as an equal and now you have to manage that same person.

2. Find the root cause
Check what's going on. Try to figure out the possible reasons behind this behaviour. It can be personal problems, a lack of challenge or just vague tasks. Find those causes and come up with solutions. Maybe this person can get a cool training to increase skills.

3. Be crystal clear
Make sure your team members fully understand what is expected of them when it comes to their duties and responsibilities. Make sure they're all on the same page, including that team member that likes to cut corners. Set clear goals and deadlines and make them SMART. Provide regular feedback and compliments on good results. Be super clear about the work ethic you expect and show how it contributes to the atmosphere and success of the entire team.

4. Monitoring and feedback
Stay in regular contact with that onw person and of course the other team members to check their work. Don't think that if you give an assignment, it will actually be done well. Provide constructive feedback on their performance and highlight the positive aspects of their work. Also, don't be afraid to respectfully indicate where they can improve. By checking regularly, you can identify potential problems early and take action quickly.

5. The consequences
If all efforts fail and the team member continues to cut corners, she must be prepared to face consequences. This can vary from addressing her about her behaviour to taking more formal measures, such as disciplinary actions. Be clear and consistent in your communication about the consequences. And also keep a file. Should it ever come to a dismissal, it is useful that every report states that the undesirable behaviour has been discussed.

As a managerial executive assistant, your job is to create a positive and productive work environment. By applying these effective leadership techniques, you can guide and motivate team members who cut corners and that will ultimately contribute to the success of your top secretariat.

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