How To Get People Out Of A Rut

Stuck in a rutJeff Gitomer has a great saying that makes a valid point. He talks of team members performing at three different levels.

Firstly, he refers to people who perform ‘in the groove’. This is when your team member is doing well, getting a lot out of their work, getting the results you want and keeping up-to-date with their research. They are ‘in the groove’.

After a while, that groove gets a little deeper. The person knows everything about the job. They don’t need any more training or coaching. They know their job and can do it without having to think about it. They produce results, but nothing spectacular. They get on with things, but don’t seem to be able to advance that much. They are performing at the plateau stage. This is the deeper groove…in other words, ‘in a rut.’

While in the rut, it’s difficult to get out of it, because they don’t see the need to get back in the groove. They’re doing ok, and probably don’t have much more they can do to make themselves more successful. So the rut, instead of becoming shallower (building back to the groove), becomes deeper.

So, there are three levels of performance…groove, rut and grave. Only separated by depth.

And our job as managers is to keep people performing ‘in-the-groove’.

How can we achieve that?

Well, here are a number of suggestions:

1) Make sure you recognise the signals people give off. They show they are in a rut by the language they use (whining, moaning, complaining, judging, etc) and they don’t see the way out of it. They concentrate on problems rather than solutions. Make sure you see these signs and don’t ignore them.

2) Discuss what options are available to the individual. Is it an attitude that needs to be changed? Do they need greater challenges? Have you been supportive enough of them?

3) Show the person what they can do to improve or develop. Most people get in a rut because they are repeating the same things day after day. They don’t see the variety that will keep them in the groove. Create opportunities for them that will help them fill in the rut.

4) Recognise their strengths and praise the use of those strengths. When they see you offer praise for things they do well, they will want to repeat those things. So watch for signs that they are doing things that will get them back in the groove. Recognise their thinking abilities and their creativity, rather than things they actually do.

5) Talk often about their career plan. If you keep progress in work as a topic of conversation, you make the individual concentrate on what they CAN do in the future, rather than what they can’t. Remember, people get in a rut when they can’t see what they are doing adds value or progress to their current or future prospects.

Keeping people in the groove should be a high priority to managers who want to maintain high performance in their teams. You have to be proactive while doing it. It’s much harder getting someone out of a rut, than keeping someone in a groove. Be the kind of manager that people aspire to follow and you build your chances of your team staying in that high-performance groove.

Many thanks

Mark Williams

Head of Training

MTD Training   | Image courtesy by Renjith Krishnan of FreeDigitalPhotos.Net

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Updated on: 9 July, 2012

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