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By Yinka Bolarinwa
The first step is to approach your subordinate positively with some passion that will involve him/her in the solution finding. If employees are not involved in decisions which affect them, they can never be fully committed. Ask open questions, for example 'Who else is involved apart from yourself?' 'How do you feel when you have difficulty…' and again, use reflective questions to clear emotions, for example, by repeating keywords.

The second step requires that managers should take time out to explore what caused the situation, this includes clarification of all the facts. Once we have found out that others are involved, we need to ask what the underlying causes may be. Be careful to have the subordinate relate well to you. If not, they may use defences to protect themselves.

These defences are normal, but they lead to unwillingness to take responsibility for action, blaming other people/external events for the problem. Use more specific questions if you feel the subordinate has built trust in you. You might ask what others might say, etc.; try to ask the subordinate about other view-points, without implying that the subordinate might be wrong.

After critical study and analysis of causes of subordinates' decreasing performance as mentioned above, understanding what the subordinate needs to do becomes the next step, meaning that he/she needs to take a line of personal responsibility. For this to happen a manager is expected to again be informally involved in helping the subordinate develop an action plan.

Empower for different behaviour
It is important that the subordinate realizes that he/she needs to take action, while you support him/her. They need to be empowered to develop a different behavior or attitude. This can be a painful process for people who used to see the solution as someone or something else changing. However, if you ask the subordinate to come up with their ideas, then they will be much more committed.

Lastly, Action! Productive behaviour is not complete until Action is taken. This may involve learning a new skill or role - playing a new course of action. For example, the subordinate may need to learn to be assertive, utilize resources effectively, become motivated or acquire new knowledge, etc. Constructive action is required by the subordinate's motivation to solve the problem, which may take time and a number of efforts to succeed. For example, successfully completing the counselling process may take a number of meetings. Late-coming or absenteeism may involve exploring the underlying causes.

Then the subordinate needs to understand what he/she can do: get up earlier, arrange another form of transport and finally take action (arriving at work on time). With more complex causes of late-coming, such as mental/child problems, this can take a number of sessions. The sudden change in behaviour must be 'nipped in the bud'. Approach the subordinate positively and show that you want to help. This is the beginning root of helping ourselves as managers to make our jobs easier and better.

Yinka Bolarinwa is Managing Director/CEO of Law Union & Rock Insurance Plc.

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