Non-Performing Player

If you are building a business you have probably run into this dilemma, and if you haven’t, I promise that you eventually will: what do you do with an under-performing team member? Obviously, you hired this person because you thought they were going to do a great job, but for whatever reason, they’re not. What I’m offering you here are the steps and resources that will help you to deal with a non-performing teammate. The ultimate goal is to prevent yourself from making leadership and hiring mistakes in the future. 

Greenies, Reddies, Brownies

So you have a team member who is underperforming. What do you do? Begin by using the worksheet linked below to identify where the employee is on the spectrum of Greenies, Reddies, and Brownies. This tool will bring some awareness to you about this employee’s current disposition and identify how to bridge the gap between where they are and where you want them to go.

Exploring Your Role

Next, we want to identify where your DNA is in this situation. In order to understand where you as an employer fit into your relationship with the under-performing person, there are a few areas of your own action that you need to explore. 

The first question to ask yourself is this person even aware of their lack of performance? If we asked the employee to rate themselves using the Greenies, Reddies, and Brownies exercise would they come back with the same evaluation that you did? At this point, you need to stop and grab your MREA book because Gary has done the heavy lifting on this process for you. Go to pages 168-169 and read them carefully.


  • What conversation have you been avoiding with this person?
  • What is it that you haven’t said to them that deep down you know you should?
  • What message do you truly intend to get through to them?
  • What is the outcome that you want for them to achieve so that they can truly thrive in their role?
  • What are they not doing that if they were you would be talking about giving them a raise instead of their lack of performance?
  • Most people want to come to work every day with the sense that they’re winning, so what does winning in their role really look like?

Exploring The Environment

Now it’s time to look at the opportunities and resources this person was provided. This further helps us to determine whether their lack of performance is merely the result of a simple lack of tools and support. Below are three areas to investigate.

Standards and Expectations

Does this employee have crystal clear, agreed-upon standards or a job description? Does this person know what they should be doing and where they fit into the organization? Do they have the skillset and knowledge of how to actually perform the tasks they are assigned?

In other words…

  • Do they know what to do?
  • Do they know how to do it?
  • Do they understand why it is important?


Step back and take a look at the training your employee received. Did they truly get a well-documented and executed 30/60/90 training? Have we truly invested the time, energy, and focus this person deserves? Were they trained in the manner you would want to be trained when coming into a new organization? 

  • How would your 30/60/90 be different if you first had to turn it into Gary Keller?
  • How would the execution have been different if he was personally overseeing the execution of it?
  • Where did we drop the ball on the training with this person?


What about accountability and feedback? It’s critical that team members have an understanding in real-time on how they’re doing. Sometimes we even lose a high-performing person by not giving consistent feedback. Who on your team is doing an amazing job and doesn’t even know it? Feedback is the breakfast of champions and will tell you everything about this person’s mindset. Champions can take constructive criticism to up their game. Has there been consistent feedback?

  • Does this person actually know they are underperforming?
  • In what ways can your accountability system be improved upon moving forward?
  • Has there been open, honest, and timely communication with this person about their performance?

Awareness and Agreement

Once you have spent the time doing your due diligence with the steps above, it’s time to sit down and have a meeting with the employee. Now, I want you to get really clear about what Gary Keller says in the MREA on pages 168 and 169 and become very familiar with it because it is crucial to achieving the outcome that you both need at this step. You need to establish an agreement with your person that they are in fact underperforming. They need to be aware that they are not living up to expectations and admit to it. 

Next, you both need to identify what the obstacle is that prevents them from finding success. The simple formula that I use for this comes from The Inner Game of Tennis, by Timothy Gallway, which says “performance equals performance minus interference”. What’s the interference here? What’s keeping this person from performing at a high level in this position?

To kick this off start by having them write out the formula; Performance=Potential-Interference. Then ask them “on a scale from 0-10 where would you rate your performance in your role?” No matter what they say follow up with “ok got it, why didn’t you say zero?” The reason we ask this follow-up question is to figure out where they feel they are succeeding. Let them share all the areas and ways they are winning and use these as a foundation to build off of. Next, ask “alright so if you’re a 6 that means you have some room to grow in your potential so what is the interference? What’s preventing you from crushing it?” Now you need to be ready for some real feedback here. Pay close attention because who or what they point to as a lack of performance will always indicate what type of mindset they possess. Finding the real interference takes time and patience. Slow down and dig in here. Make certain you are scuba diving, not water skiing. Get super clear on what the real problem is.

“Problem Identification is always a sound investment of time, money, and energy.  Einstein said ‘If I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about the solutions.” It feels uncomfortable to spend time and resources trying to figure out exactly what the problem is-we want to jump to fixing way too fast. Most of us are plagued with action bias and really struggle to stay in problem identification.  I’ve found that getting clear on what’s wrong and why it’s a problem is the best investment you can make at home or work.”

Brene Brown

Moving Forward

Now that all of this is out in the air, it’s time to decide where to go from here. If you are being honest with them and yourself, this may be the time for an apology on your part. If you haven’t given them 100% of the tools and training they need to succeed be honest about it. Next, it’s important to give them the opportunity to use this new understanding and knowledge to succeed. This comes in the form of a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) which is a document that spells out in no uncertain terms what this employee needs to do to get your business relationship back on track. Most likely you do not want to terminate this person and begin the hiring process again. You hired them for a reason, and I imagine that if they can hit the benchmarks of success you will want them to stay. Having that plan in place and reaffirming your commitment to give them the training and resources they need will put you both on the path to making this a successful relationship.

When creating the PIP I want you to think of yourself as a mortgage company. Think back to the last mortgage you signed off on personally. Did you know the payment? Did you know the rate and term? Did you know the due date for each month? All of these things are clearly articulated when you close on the loan right? And if you make the payment on time you only hear from the bank through statements. Now if you stop making those payments you’re going to receive a notice of default. A notice of default does two things. One it notifies you that your relationship is in default and two it clearly lays out the steps you must take to get back in good standing. Your PIP should be as clear as a mortgage statement. The team member knows exactly what is expected to get the relationship out of deflaut.

I know this process is a lot of work but I promise you that if you go through it, one of two things are going to happen. You are going to do everything you can to keep this relationship strong and work through it thus avoiding having to hire the next person. Or you will become a much better selector and on-boarder of team members so you won’t have to relive this problem again. You win either way.