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How to encourage struggling high-performing employees

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It’s happened to all of us. No matter how productive we usually are, even the most consistent high-performing employee struggles from time to time. So as a manager, how do you help your team member get out of their rut?

Start with encouragement

Over the years I have had several opportunities to engage with team members on productivity issues. Hopefully you’re having regular one-on-ones and have developed the kind of feedback culture that makes sharing truth (with kindness and grace) a cultural norm.

In that context, you should begin your conversation with honesty. Something like:

“I’ve noticed you’ve been struggling a bit lately. Let me start by saying that I SO appreciate your contribution to the team, and how you consistently give it your all! You’re such a strong contributor (be specific). I really want to understand what’s going on – I’m here to support you.”

IMPORTANT: There’s a reason I didn’t start with “You’re doing a great job.” It’s been my experience that when someone starts there and adds a “but” that it completely devalues the encouragement. And worse, the next time you encourage them, they’ll be waiting for the “but”. Your ability to be honest in a kind way will be rewarded by building more trust in your relationship.

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