What To Do When Your Team Is Behind On Their Targets

We’ve all been there. You created a set of targets (e.g. KPIs or key performance indicators) for your team. And halfway through the quarter or halfway through the year you already know (and they probably know, as well), they’re not going to hit their targets. What should you do?

If you’re like most business owners and entrepreneurs chances are you’re going to adjust the target down to something “more reasonable.” For example

  • Sally was supposed to generate $800K in revenue this year, but halfway through the year, she’s only at $200K, so let’s ratchet her goal down to $600K. That will still be a stretch but it’s “more attainable,” than keeping her goal at $800K.
  • MacKenzie was supposed to create 10 new systems for her area this month. We’re at week three and she’s only done two. So, let’s ratchet her goal down to six for this month so she can feel like she’s making progress.
  • Michael was supposed to generate 150 leads this quarter. We’re only three weeks away from the end of our quarter and Micheal is a good guy, but he’s only at 75 leads for the quarter. Let’s adjust his leads number down to 100 for the quarter so he’ll feel like this was a win.

The problem with this kind of process is that it backfires by creating a culture of non-accountability. When you consistently have people missing targets and there’s no consequence to not hitting their targets, even worse that their targets are adjusted downward so that they (the individual) feel good about not meeting their targets, you’re creating a dysfunctional workplace. In essence, you end up getting more people not meeting their targets quarter by quarter (the exact opposite of what you want).

So, what’s the better option? Instead of ratcheting down your targets, use the following strategy.

When it looks like your team is behind on their targets, don’t reduce their target, increase their activity.

That’s the better strategy. You don’t want to create a culture where it’s “okay” to not meet your KPIs, where you can simply carry over from month-to-month or quarter-to-quarter any targets that weren’t hit in a previous period. So, here’s a simple three step strategy to use when someone on your team is behind on their targets.

I. Increase Their Activity

Culture is created by what you enforce, not what you want or what you have written on a wall or in a policy manual. So, when it’s clear that someone isn’t going to hit their metric, don’t make your default, “Let’s reduce their production.” Make your default, “Okay, how are you going to increase your activity so you’ll hit your target?”

Note: you want to engage your employees in the process of increasing their activity, as opposed to simply telling them what to do. For example,

  • “Sally, it’s now July and, as you know, you’re only a quarter of the way to your revenue generation goal. So, how are you going to increase your activity over the next six months to generate that additional $600K?”
  • “I’m not sure I can do that.”
  • “Okay. How about we simply brainstorm together. What could you do? For example, how many leads do you have in your pipeline?”
  • “Not enough.”
  • “Well, to get to get to $600K in six months, how many leads do you think you’ll need?”
  • “Probably 100.”
  • “Alright, so how many calls would you need to make to hit that number? How many would you need to make each week to hit that number? How many are you currently making per week?”
  • “How many meetings would you need to take to hit that target?” “How many per week?” How many are you currently taking per week?
  • “How many networking functions? How many are you currently attending?”
  • “How many people are you asking for referrals every week?” “How many people do you think you need to ask per week to hit your goal?” Etc.
  • “Now, what if you were to increase your activity to the numbers you just told me, do you think you could you hit your $800K target?”

You get the idea. Too often we accept other people’s excuses for why they didn’t get something done that they agreed to get done at the start of the quarter or start of the year. Instead of accepting that as “reality.” Why not create a new reality? If you’re falling behind, increase your activity. Make that the standard, not reducing their targets.

So, who on your team do you need to have a crucial conversation with this week?

II. Reduce Your Reporting Cycle

One of the reasons why so many people get so far behind is because the accountability cycles they’re being held to are too far apart. For example, if someone has to report on their metrics once per quarter, they can get way behind (in their mind, they’re thinking, “I have thirteen weeks to get this done. No pressure to get started right away. I don’t have to give an answer until the end of the quarter”). On the other hand, if they have to give a report once per month, they’ll probably get less far behind because they can’t put off getting started as long as if they have 13 weeks.

Even better, if they have to report back once per week, they’ll probably fall even less far behind than once per month because they can’t push off getting started for a few weeks. And if they have to report back on their activity every day, they’ll probably fall less behind than if they have to report back once per week. It’s just the nature of  the human condition.

This is one of the reasons why, here at BizScalers Club, I’m such a huge fan of daily meetings. If someone (let’s call him, Joe) has to say, day after day, “I didn’t get X done (e.g. I didn’t hit my sales call quota yesterday or I didn’t get that part of the project done that Sally is waiting on, etc.)” there’s a much higher probability that Joe’s behavior will change sooner rather than later vs. if he had four weeks before he had to give account for his actions/production.

There’s no question about it. Daily accountability will get more done faster than just about anything else you can do in your business. So, give daily meetings a shot. And if you’re not willing to try daily yet, at least go to weekly accountability (and then slowly head toward daily).

The math on this is simple. The more you reduce your reporting cycle, the faster you’ll fix any lagging problems.

So, how can you reduce your reporting and accountability cycle this month?

III. Make Accountability Visible

Few things spur activity more than competition and not wanting to be publicly embarrassed. Way too many employees get away with underperformance because “no one knows” what they’re doing (or, more appropriately, what they’re not doing). It’s all a mystery.

On the other hand, what most sales teams have figured out is that a visual representation of their sales activity is a huge motivator for sales revenue. Who wants to be on the bottom? If you’re on the bottom of the sales board, you either work your way up or your way out (i.e. visual accountability helps weed out underperformers). Moreover, it also motivates your best people because a little competition gets them to increase their activity because they want to be in the top spot (or the top quartile).

Now, if visual accountability works for sales people, it can probably work for the rest of your team. For example, here at BizScalers, we’re huge fans of Sprint Boards (i.e. 30 Day Races). An easy way to use your 30-day race for visual accountability then is to give everyone on your team a different colored dot so visually, everyone can see at a glance, who’s responsible for which task.

For example, let’s say, my dot is bright green. If you’re looking at our Sprint Board and notice that a lot of the tasks I’m responsible for are either in the Doing or Done column, you’d probably think, “Bruce gets his stuff done.” If, on the other hand, most of my dots are still in the Hopper or the On Deck columns, you’d probably think, “Bruce, better get his act together. He’s holding the whole team back.”

Even better, if you hold your daily meeting in front of your Sprint Board, everyday there will be some accountability that each person is either getting their stuff done or not. This means that no one can hide (like they do in most businesses). Moreover, if someone is dragging, it’s pretty easy for you to say, “Hey Bruce, it seems like most of your tasks are in the Hopper still and we’re already into week two of this month, what’s up?”

So, what can you do this week to make accountability more visual in your business?

If you ever find your team is falling behind on their targets, pull out this post and remember these three simple principles.

  1. Increase their activity
  2. Reduce your reporting cycle
  3. Make accountability visible

The one thing you don’t want to do is reduce their target. You never want to create a culture where underperformance is rewarded because, in the end, you’ll simply get more underperformance and your employees won’t take their targets/KPIs/projects seriously (remember, what gets rewarded gets done).

So, don’t do it. Hold strong. Stick to your guns. And if, by chance, the metric/KPI/target was wrong, learn from it and fix it for the next quarter or year. Just don’t reduce it for this reporting period. You’ll be glad you didn’t.

To your accelerated success!


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