I was recently talking with Antonio, a senior leader, about an employee who had put in a request for overtime while he was away on vacation. Confused by the request, he sought out the employee and asked, “Why do you need this overtime? Is the workload too much? Are our goals too aggressive?”

“I just don’t feel like I’m making progress quickly enough,” Scott responded.

Trying to make sense of what Scott meant, Antonio asked, “You don’t feel like you’re making progress, or you’re not actually making progress?”

This question, asked with tremendous compassion and an authentic desire to help, opened the doorway to the truth of Scott’s personal challenges.

Noticing the need for privacy, the door got closed and a few tears were shed as Scott shared about some incredibly challenging experiences in his personal life.

Less than an hour later, Antonio was able to help Scott brainstorm ideas to get him back on track, even progressing at a pace he could be proud of again.

“What’s helped you in similar situations in the past?” Antonio asked.

“Meditation, but it’s hard for me to do that in the office.”

“Maybe stepping away from work a couple of times during the workday to meditate in your car will help? Also, it sounds like more time with your family makes more sense than more time in the office (overtime),” Antonio suggested.

(Wait, let’s pause here for a moment. How many leaders do you know risk the possibility of hearing such difficulty in order to help their employees get better results? If you have a similar story, please share it with me by email at Misti@MistiBurmeister.com.)

Recognizing how overwhelmed Scott had become by his workload in conjunction with his personal challenges, Antonio followed up with Scott’s direct supervisor. Together, they came up with a plan to help Scott chunk his work down into manageable pieces.

Today, Scott is producing some of his best work.

Is dealing with underperforming employees really that simple? Does such an approach always work?

No, nothing always works.

However, this approach certainly strengthened trust, commitment, and ultimately led to increased productivity.

As leaders, isn’t the goal to help your employees get better results? A surefire way to improve your ability to help them succeed is by connecting with the human behind the employee.

Here’s to your greatness,

Misti Burmeister