Recently I was placed in a situation where I had to answer a pretty intriguing question. The subject dealt with how leadership should deal with a team member that was not pulling their share of the load. The dilemma was if, as a leader, you should part ways with that team member or if you should invest time and resources into helping that person succeed.

When it comes to investing in a team member, it can become a very difficult question as to answer as to how much help should you offer and for how long should you try? After all, the most important decision that a leader will make is who is on the team, and a leader’s role is to help them to be the best that they can be. Everything that a leader will accomplish deals with the people that the leader has around them, and how successful those people are.

I have found two questions that must be addressed before you can accurately make that decision. The two questions can only be answered by the leader, and they must be answered honestly. The reason that I emphasize honestly is that often we as leaders allow our personal feelings towards an individual to cloud the truth when it comes to performance.

The first question deals with the personal life of the team member in question. As a leader, we must be willing to engage the individual and find out what is going on in their personal life. Often there are outside circumstances that create stress that in turn causes the person to lose focus. Most individuals do not feel like sharing those circumstances with team members, so they internalize them. This internalization only creates more stress and will have a direct effect on their performance. A leader must understand that knowledge of the circumstance is not enough, a great leader will need to show compassion and understanding. This type of leadership will be the most time consuming however it will be the most rewarding in the long run. Team members need to know that their leader truly cares about them.

The second question deals with development. As a leader, we must continually survey the team to determine their ability to accomplish the task. In most cases where the team member is discouraged or under performing, it comes down to them not being trained or developed. Development is an area where I often fail. I find a great person with great character that I want on my team, and then I throw them out into the ocean. A failure when it comes to development all falls back on the shoulders of the leader, not the team member.

This week’s experiment deals with the two questions that you should ask for each team member, not just the ones struggling. 1. How are things going, no really? 2. If there was one area of training or help that I could provide you, what would that be? When the team member answers those two questions honestly, your leadership will be challenged, and your team will become stronger.