Behavior and attitude are two sides of the same coin, attitude being the mental side and behavior being the physical side. Behavior is attitude acted out. It becomes ingrained in all of us by experiences reinforced over time.

If you want to make changes in behavior and attitude, you must give your staff new experiences and consistently reinforce those experiences over time.

To make attitude, behavior and eventually performance change, your employees must feel safe in their environment and know that when they acknowledge a weakness or the lack of a particular skill set, it will be met with a supportive solution and not embarrassment. Building trust is the first key to building better people.

One of the best trust builders when you are trying to correct or improve performance is to focus on the solution to a problem, and look to improving results by working on the problem, not attacking the person.

"Can't you tell time?" is not the most effective way to address tardiness.

A simple way to see if you are on the right track is to watch the first pronoun you use: Is it "you" or is it "I"? Using "you" immediately puts the other person on the defensive, and almost completely shuts down their receptivity. Using "I" helps keep the person actively involved in the conversation and will allow them the objectivity to help plan a solution with you.

Another performance enhancer is to be sure you and your employee both see the issue being addressed as a problem. Sometimes that can be cleared up by simply asking a yes-or-no question. "I am concerned because... Can you see why this would be a problem?" Getting the employee to agree there is a problem is crucial to finding the resolution.

After you have asked the yes-or-no questions, it's time to get some solution input, and that will come from asking open-ended questions.

These are questions that start with who, when, where, what and why. "When do you think we can resolve this issue? Where would we find the budget to spend on that idea? Who do you think would want to work on that project with you?"

Open-ended questions are a powerful growth tool, because they address the issues and require the people being coached to think of solutions. And we all know that their solutions are going to be a lot more palatable than your solutions, even if they are the same.

If a solution requires training or additional coaching, it is made easier by the fact that the employee has already acknowledged that (1) there is a problem, (2) they agree it is a problem and (3) they are willing to be a part of the solution.
Now you are very close to setting people on the right track, but you need a strong finish. Ask a series of directed questions that end eventually with "yes" and a commitment. A directed question is one to which you know the answer; you are directing the questions toward that answer.

After assigning a task or addressing an issue that needs work or anything else that requires a final "buy-in," always ask: "Does that seem fair? Do you have enough time? Does that seem reasonable?" Use questions that will result in a positive response and the commitment to move forward.

This is a simple plan to help you work through negative issues toward a positive resolution. But what do we do when people don't respond to our help, support, encouragement and nurturing?
We all know that what we should do is help them find somewhere else to become successful. Every manager I talk with has someone who is performing below acceptable levels and yet is still employed.

Why is it that poor performers are still employed? I find it's usually guilt. The manager feels guilty because he or she has not taken the necessary steps to help improve the employee's performance.

This is why it is so important to find out the needs of your employees, involve them in the solutions, encourage them to learn new skills and help them become more successful. Then you will know if they are in the 80 percent who want to learn or the 20 percent who don't.

When you realize that you have done everything you can to help make a person develop more successfully and he or she is just not going along with the plan, then the guilt goes away and the need to improve or remove this person becomes clear.

Author's Bio: 

John Chappelear is an author, speaker, executive coach, and trainer. John’s company Changing the Focus, LLC delivers positive, powerful, and balanced individuals, and more productive, creative, and profitable organizations. He is internationally recognized as a life balance, leadership, and communications expert. John’s book The Daily Six won the best book award from USA Book News.

For more information on how John can help you and your organization, or to sign up for our free newsletter please visit the web site: or send an e-mail to:

John lives with his family in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida