A number of years ago when I worked for a manufacturing company I introduced performance targets into the area of the business I was responsible for. While most of my managers responded well to this approach I had one person who felt his work deadlines had been tightened and as a consequence didn’t meet his targets.

The purpose behind me setting performance targets in the first place was to ensure that my managers were clear about what was expected of them. I felt I was being fair to all of my managers as they all had similar targets to achieve and I hadn’t set this person anything more challenging than anyone else. I knew that I had to understand why he had failed to meet his targets so far.

I therefore sat down with them and explained to him my concerns and asked him why he was failing to meet his targets. He explained that he was struggling with his workload and felt that on reflection he occasionally became distracted by other work.

Together we agreed an action plan to address this.

We broke down two of his targets into smaller short term steps so that he had a clear plan of how to achieve them. I also suggested that he cleared his diary and dedicate two half days per week working on these particular targets which he agreed to.

Over the following few months we sat down on a regular basis to review progress and discuss further actions to help him improve his time and priority management skills. His confidence to manage his work effectively improved dramatically and over a period of 3-4 months he started to more consistently meet deadlines and time scales.

While he never became a ‘top performer’ on my team, he improved dramatically and was much more reliable.

The lesson I learned from this was that if someone isn’t delivering the targets set there must be an underlying reason for it and the sooner that you deal with the issue the better.