Performance: Shortcomings must be acknowledged before they can be fixed

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:42 pm

Have you ever worked with a manager that spoke intelligently, looked credible, but rarely accomplished any of his or her goals? Do they cover their backside vs. openly discussing the tough issues? Are they fairly adept at shielding themselves from taking responsibility regarding underperformance?

In fact, does their own underperformance usually get blamed on other people, a lack of resources or market conditions, etc? Well, if you have worked with a manager that fits this description, then you have met the Teflon Don (or Donna).

Nothing sticks to Teflon. The Teflon Don is someone who is completely unaccustomed to taking responsibility for their own lack of performance. They are challenging to work with because they are not straightforward and honest as it relates to their struggles with underperformance.

They play hide-and-seek with the truth, making their peers and manager hunt for exactly the right question in order to get to the truth. Playing hide-and-seek with the truth is a form of dishonesty, and when dishonesty creeps into an organization, performance will always suffer.

You can’t fix what you don’t acknowledge. Some managers don’t understand this, and their ego, pride or insecurity won’t allow them to come clean and acknowledge their shortcomings. This is a shame, because so many managers with great potential could accelerate their personal growth and development if only they were secure enough to be open and honest about their need for additional coaching and development.

Conversely, the best managers put their insecurities aside. If they’re underperforming and/or struggling, they will be the first to tell you, and they will also ask for help. The strong manager works hard to create full visibility regarding operating performance throughout the entire organization. They also live in a world where no secrets exist regarding operating performance, good or bad.

Managers are paid to achieve results. This means they are paid to identify problems, obstacles and opportunities, and they are paid to work their way through them in order to achieve success. To help snuff out the Teflon Don within your organization, consider helping them by implementing the following:

1.    Establish Key Performance Measures (KPM’s) for all departments and all individuals within your organization.

2.    Document the roles and responsibilities of each person within your organization (this ensures clarity exists regarding performance expectations).

3.    Assign a scribe to take meeting notes at most if not all management meetings. Your meeting notes should be in the form of an action item list. Keep track of the following, and use Microsoft Excel so you can sort by due date:

•    Action item.

•    Expected results (be sure this is clear and measurable wherever possible).

•    Who. This is the person responsible for ensuring this action item gets completed.

•    Due date.

•    Date completed. Record this so the management team can keep track of the date the action item was actually completed. 

4.    Ensure you have a formalized periodic review process at the appropriate intervals (daily, weekly, monthly) within all departments throughout the entire organization. Review actual performance as compared to plan (KPM’s, action item lists, and other performance goals).

And finally, establish a corporate culture that expects candid dialog regarding operating performance. If someone is repeatedly and deliberately playing hide-and-seek with the truth, get rid of them. The world is competitive enough without having someone on your team who can’t be trusted to be candid and honest. 

Phil Mydlach is the owner of Mydlach Management Advisors ( a corporate planning and performance improvement practice in Waukesha. He can be reached at (262) 662-4646 or

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