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Graci Leadership Solutions Blog

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Using Memos to Address Poor Performance Hurts Your Credibility

Updated: Feb 25, 2022

How many times have you been on the receiving end of a "shotgun memo"? You know, the kind of memo fired off by a leader to the entire team when only one or two team members are not following a procedure or have done something wrong?

Memos are powerful communication tools. They are declarations from on high and can potentially change the course of your team's progress, for better or for worse. When misused, like in the case of shotgun memos, they are de-motivating - your workers who are doing the job as you require feel lumped in with the workers who need correction. Shotgun memos can damage team morale, and what's worse, they are dangerous to a leader's credibility because leaders are obligated to directly confront those not doing the job on behalf of those who are doing the job.

Relying on a memo that goes out to the entire team instead of confronting the poor performers directly is a symptom of a leader potentially practicing management without a license. Managing via memo is not managing at all!

Remember, leaders are MADE, not born! It takes courage to be a leader and intervene as soon as a situation calls for it. Don't be shy! People depend on you to tell them what they need to do and what they are responsible for!

Below is a short, amusing, and practical poem that may provide a glimpse of what drives ineffective leaders to draft up and distribute a shotgun memo, courtesy of Duane Jackson at

  • An internal email was just sent to our tech team about a problem, ending with "Can someone look into this?"

  • It reminded me of a short story about responsibility:

  • This is a little story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody.

  • There was an important job to be done, and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it.

  • Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it.

  • Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody's job.

  • Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn't do it.

  • It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.

In other words, if you're delegating a task or asking for something to be done – make sure you delegate to Somebody, otherwise, Nobody will do it.

If you recognize your own behavior in any part of that poem, take steps now to correct it. At the very least, use your memo to follow up with the team members whose erroneous behavior prompted the memo in the first place. Otherwise, you are at serious risk of letting down the people depending on you to keep your team running smoothly!

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