Sometimes the best performing employees can become disconnected or disengaged with the organization. This most commonly happens after major changes or a series of small changes. Here are five steps I’ve used successfully to get them re-engaged.

5 Steps to Re-engaging a Good Performer

Step 1:Find out why they are disengaged.

As a leader we cannot make assumptions about why employees are disengaged; we need to know. It is time for a serious conversation about what is going on.

In this conversation, you need to be direct but show that you really care about what is going on. Do not let them give you a quick, canned answer. Most of the time it is not as simple as that. It will be multiple complex issue more often than not. This is why they may have a hard time articulating their thoughts.  You will need to be listening very carefully and asking probing questions to discover the root of all the issues.

Once you have captured a list of issues that has contributed to the disengagement, it is time to prioritize the list.  It is critical to allow the employee to look over the list and prioritize the issues in the order of importance; i.e. if you can only correct one thing, what would be the most important one to tackle?

Step 2: Determine who controls the items on the list.

Once you have the list you will need to determine if an item on that list is going to be corrected and who can make that happen. Is it the employee, you or another leader?

The most common issues are employee-owned issues (their view of the situation, believing rumors or performance related).

For example; An employee had been a top performer prior to a change organizationally, and now they’re in a place where they are not performing well at all. They are putting expectations on themselves based on old assumptions; they need to see the new view. You, as their manager, could own the issue:

  • Is the organizational change a decision you made?
  • Is how you manage exacerbating the problem?
  • Do you continue to break your promises, or maybe you do not communicate what is happening?

The issues could stem from another leader’s decisions, unkept promises or lack of communication. You must determine the owner of each item on the list.  This will help you understand what can and cannot be done.

Step 3:Have a conversation with the employee.

Once you have the owners listed on all of the items, it is time to sit down with the employee again. There are two major talking points for this conversation.

Discuss the employee’s circle of control.


Employees need to focus on things they can control. Don’t spend time on the “no control” circle, as exemplified in the above chart. Instead, have them work with you on items in the “influence” circle.  Most often you will find that disengaged people spend too much time worrying about things outside of their control. The best way to bring this point home is with the next steps plan.

Create a next-steps plan together.

This plan should focus on addressing the items on the list, but only items they control or you as the manager control.

Step 4:Set short milestones and quick wins.  Celebrate each win with them.

Each piece of the next-steps plan needs to have short milestones. As the manager you can keep it in front of them.

Also, make sure there will be quick wins to celebrate. This reinforces the behavior you want. It also allows you to show them subtly how success and engagement go hand in hand.

Step 5:Always make the connection between their plan and success to what the organization is doing.

This is the opportunity to show how it is all connected to the company’s mission and team’s goals. It puts a tangible example to the things that are said.

Bonus Tip:Recruit informal leaders, or other leaders they respect, to help you.

Sometimes it is hard to get your employees to open up to you, especially since the perception is that it impacts their performance review. If that happens, find other members on the team you can trust to help pull the information out. Try a meeting with multiple people and make sure they answer the questions as well. You can also have another leader approach them for an open conversation. Finding a way to get the information and get connected is the critical piece.

Thanks, and Remember – It’s not about YOU!