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Is Underachievement an Employee Problem, or Leadership Problem?


Is Underachievement an Employee Problem, or Leadership Problem?

“Desire is the key to motivation, but it’s determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal – a commitment to excellence – that will enable you to attain the success you seek.” —Mario Andretti

When looking at employee achievement it’s easy to assume that some people have it and some people just don’t. But, what if that weren’t true? What if you, as a leader, had the ability to turn every employee into an achiever? You really need to ask yourself, “Why are some employees underachieving?”

Right position

The first question to ask yourself is, “Do I have the right person in the right position?” The best employee can underachieve when placed in a position that is not a good fit for their strengths. This quickly spirals into the employee losing confidence in their own abilities and management underestimating what this employee is truly capable of.


Another thing to look at is desire. We all want to do something that gives us a sense of accomplishment, something worth waking up for in the morning. When an employee feels that their contribution makes a real difference they have the desire to keep adding value. If they feel like they are going through meaningless motions just to earn a paycheck, they quickly lose the desire to put forth their best efforts.


How committed are your employees? Well, one good gauge of their commitment to the organization is how committed you, as a leader are to them. Commitment is a two-way street; just because you pay an employee to perform a task does not buy you their commitment. Do they feel secure in their job? Do they feel appreciated? When employees do not feel that you are committed to them, they quickly lose any aspiration to be fully invested in their jobs or the organization.


Even the most unskilled employee might surprise you if you offer them encouragement. We all struggle sometimes. It might be lack of training or experience; it might be low self-confidence; it might be struggles in our personal life that cause us to lose focus, but a little encouragement from a trusted and respected leader can help turn a poor performer into an outstanding performer.


Any employee can slip backward into becoming an underachiever if they do not have the support they need. No one can succeed when left all on their own; we need a team, a support structure. And, as the leader, you are the foundation of that support structure. Knowing that someone has your back, that someone is cheering you on goes a long way in turning underachievers into achievers.

Your Role

Underachievement is often not an employee problem, but a leadership problem. As a leader, it is your responsibility is to ensure you have the right people in the right positions. You must give them meaningful work that inspires the desire to contribute even more. You must be committed to them so they will be committed to you. You must offer encouragement. And, they must know they have your support. What if you could turn every employee into an achiever?

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