EMCS Director of Advisory Services Silvan Mifsud on Tuesday pinpointed six ways that business leaders can tackle attitude and performance issues from employees in a “healthy and constructive manner”.
This came as part of his own blog titled ‘A Business Blog for SME and Family Businesses’, where in this particular piece he opted to focus on addressing underperformance. He remarked that each business requires every team member to feel they are accountable to others around them, understand their responsibilities, and also “feel obligated to deliver”.
“The challenge is to create a culture of accountability and high performance using persuasion and not fear or constant incentives,” he said, before adding that the use of “empathy and compassion” need to be “inline with the situation at hand”.
In a bid to achieve that balance, Mr Mifsud started by noting that it is important to set “clear and shared expectations”, a step that is commonly skipped by many business leaders. “Missing such a step always results in then having to deal with outputs and performances which are way below the mark, forcing you to intervene after your employees have invested time and energy, which can be demoralising for team members, not to mention inefficient,” he explained.
“Setting clear expectations through proper, direct, and clear initial communication is a sure way to foster a culture of accountability,” he added. He remarked that during his time in advisory services, he has witnessed cases where business owners have wasted time in creating a “culture of name calling”, which is linked to someone underperforming because they have not had the expectations made clear to them “from the very start”.
He then pointed out that business leaders need to help every team member maintain focus on the “progress and way forward”. Business leaders can do so by investing time in communication, through one-to-one meetings and team meetings, also using these as opportunities to “address any concerns or looming issues”.
“Such efforts would also communicate to all that you are keeping track of progress, and lack of it, and hence things are not being left without an overview,” Mr Mifsud said.
Creating an environment of psychological safety is also crucial, he said, as “perfection is unachievable”, so employees need to have a safe space to “share their struggles and failures”.
“When employees feel that total success or perfection is the only acceptable way, they will likely reject accountability. It comes with too much risk and the expectations go beyond what is humanely possible,” he explained. However, this has to be done in a balanced manner, as guiding employees can prove to be helpful, yet “solving their problems erodes accountability rather than strengthening it, because it teaches your employees that they don’t have to be accountable as you will be coming to the rescue”.
“The secret is acknowledging their difficulties, giving them any guidance, while demonstrating that you’re confident that they can deliver,” he added.
Mr Mifsud remarked that business leaders also need to be coaches, rather than micromanagers, and guidance has to come in a “series of minor course corrections rather than a whole load of ‘everything you did is wrong’”.
He added that employers need to guide employees’ attention rather than dictate the way they should work, and they can do so by asking questions that allow them to “interrogate their approach” and to teach them to “spot their own assumptions”.
Additionally, he noted that consequences, both positive and negative, are key parts of the learning process, as these can deliver important lessons on what to do and what not to do in future scenarios.
Lastly, he suggested that when all else fails, employers need to allow for a “graceful exit” to take place. “As a business leader you need to understand that sometimes the kindest thing you can do is release someone who isn’t performing,” he said.
“That’s because teams have social dynamics, and once an individual has lost your confidence, it becomes too difficult for anyone to recover from that. In that situation, it’s best to channel your compassion into helping the person make a graceful exit and supporting them as they look for a new role,” he concluded.
Mr Mifsud has years of experience in the financial sector through various management roles at a number of companies. He has worked at EMCS Tax and Advisory for more than five years, where he initially joined as Senior Manager of Business Advisory Services, before he was promoted to his current role as Director of Advisory Services.
He holds a Master of Business Administration in Financial Management and Business Transformation at University of Reading, and a Bachelor of Commerce in Banking and Finance from University of Malta.
Silvan Mifsud / LinkedIn
He replaces Jose Ramon Alegre, who resigned from the position at the start of 2024.
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