90-Day Road Map


I overheard a woman talking about her journey from the airport to a remote location in Northern New Mexico. She said that her niece had given her exact details and descriptions for each turn over the phone such as, “At the adobe church, turn right” and “At the market/post office, continue for 3 miles”. “I got lost”, she says. “I pictured in my mind what she was saying. But when the markers (the church or the market/post office) appeared in actuality, they weren’t how I pictured them, so I ignored them and continued to look for what matched my vision.

I began to wonder, is this what we do in life – not accept the markers for what they are, but instead seek what we imagine them to be?

This story reminded me of many clients that I coach through the hiring process. One of the biggest stumbling blocks in hiring is when they create a picture in their mind of what they hope will be and dismiss the reality of the markers that indicate things are different. This dismissal of what is real, while trying to make what is happening line up with what they see in their mind’s eye, results in time and resources being poured into an ineffective hire.

It is no one’s fault. Hiring is challenging. All we can go on is how people present and represent themselves in the interview process. Most of us don’t enjoy the hiring process and desperately want to fill the vacant position. Once we get a candidate, we want them to be successful so we tend to overlook the clear markers that indicate they may not be the right fit. We create stories to help them line up with our vision for success. Sometimes the picture ends up being the reality and that is great. And sometimes it does not, but we still labor on trying to make the wrong hire work out.

What is the solution? The solution is to implement a 90-day Road Map which provides clear markers and check points.

I’ve spent considerable time coaching leaders and department managers to use the 90-day Road Map for new hires. In this road map are the benchmarks (aka markers) indicating that they are progressing as the right fit for the job. I’ve also spent endless hours listening to clients as they lament all the ways a new hire isn’t working out. My question always becomes, “how clearly were the benchmarks identified and communicated, and how was progress measured and feedback given during the first 90 days of employment?

My dear friend, mentor, colleague and Human Resource expert Betsey Nash always says, “There are three reasons employees don’t perform:  (1) Not enough training; (2) Don’t have the ability to do the task – which no amount of training can fix; and (3) Don’t have the desire to do the job well.


If an employee is not performing, address the following three areas:

Reason 1 - Not enough training. Create a new training plan or provide additional resources and information.

Reason 2 - Insufficient ability.  If the hire is a poor fit that is not able to meet the requirements of the position either move them to a more appropriate position or department, or part ways.

Reason 3 - Lack of desire to do the job well. Let the new hire go. No amount of training or movement within the company will solve this.

I was delighted when just recently a newly promoted manager who I’ve been retained to coach on her transition called me to say, “The new hire isn’t working out and I want to just run my decision by you before I pull the trigger”.  Because we established benchmarks for success over the first 90 days and she was able to clearly communicate those with the new hire, measure and give feedback, it became abundantly clear at about 60 days in that this wasn’t the right fit.

Instead of the new manager and I having a long coaching call with her being emotional, vague and worried about her decision, she was able to articulate to me:

a)  “These are the benchmarks that were communicated with the new hire and these are the repeated misses.

b)  “These are the places I provided additional training and resources. And these are the ways in which the person either didn’t complete the training or missed the mark.

c) “All my documentation indicates that they aren’t the right fit. I’m going to let them go.

Each time you hire (or are hired) make sure there is a clear, concrete conversation about what the benchmarks are in the first 90 days that, as achieved, will indicate that the right person has been hired. Schedule weekly or bi-weekly check-in’s to give (or receive) clear feedback on progress. And follow up in writing. Download the 90-Day Road Map and save yourself valuable time and energy in the hiring process!

Just like in the story of the woman driving in remote New Mexico, make sure that in addition to the clear plan, you measure progress with easily identified markers– instead of buying into any of the stories you are tempted to create in your head to make that employee align with your vision.