Sin: Hanging onto the wrong person, in the wrong job, too long
Good business leaders often say they’ve learned more from
their failures than successes. These leaders have the confidence to
know they can’t be right all the time and that mistakes come with
the territory. For example, they might fail to communicate
effectively or delegate properly. Perhaps they need to improve at
accountability or developing their people.
But what’s the biggest sin or failure of all, which causes
harm to the performance of a company, giving leadership the most
grief? Believe it or not, it’s a people problem. It’s hanging onto
the wrong person, in the wrong job, for too long.
Ironically, it’s often the company leader, or manager, who is
the last to understand the impact of not taking action on a poor
performer. It’s the employees, who work alongside the poor
performer who quickly recognize the dire consequences of this
situation, which breeds negative employee morale and loss of
productivity. It can also erode the confidence and effectiveness of
those in charge. On the flip side, when team leaders are aware that
there’s a performance problem, many do nothing about it or take way
too long to tackle the problem. Why?
Let’s start with loyalty. Loyalty is an important attribute —
companies and managers encourage and value it. However, there are
times when a manager crosses “the line” and perhaps over-identifies
with a particular employee. When that happens, the manager often
gets too close to that person. This makes it more challenging to
deal with performance problems because the manager has valued
loyalty over performance. An example of this situation occurs is
when managers hire friends and/or relatives. That invisible line
between the manager and the employee becomes increasingly difficult
to recognize, so the manager becomes confused. Consequently, it’s
then really tough to deal with the poorly performing employee in an
objective, constructive manner.
Next, consider that nobody likes to be wrong. So when a
manager hires someone who is a bad fit for a position, letting that
person go becomes a public admission that he or she made a mistake.
Unfortunately, the fear of admitting mistakes often stalls or
prevents the termination process altogether. Perhaps the manager
keeps hoping that this person will get better, but since hope is not
a strategy for success, there’s likely never any improvement. The
situation just festers, and everyone suffers.
Another reason managers often don’t do anything about ousting
the poor performer is they don’t have a back-up plan. At least I
have a warm body in the job, they think. With no back-up plan, they
believe that any living, breathing body is better than no one at
all. They accept mediocrity rather than take a risk that would
enable them to create the opportunity to improve their situation.
The solution would be to recruit proactively, always looking out for
someone who could be a better team player.
Dealing with the poor performer also comes with the
perception that it always results in conflict. Most people don’t
like conflict, so they avoid situations that might lead to it. But
implementing a good performance management system, one with an
ongoing methodology to evaluate performance, eliminates the
potential for conflict by creating an objective process for
communicating to employees about their strengths and shortcomings.
Many managers don’t have a good performance management system in
place, so if they have to deal with the poor performer, conflict
results. What’s more, without an ongoing methodology to evaluate
performance and give feedback, employees are often surprised if
they’re suddenly severely reprimanded or let go. That’s obviously a
conflict-ridden situation, and one that can be avoided with a
performance management system in place.
Most importantly, company leaders hold onto the wrong person,
in the wrong position, for too long simply because they lack good
performance management skills themselves. A good accountability
leader is able to not only use the established performance system as
a tool, but also create a culture in which open, honest
conversations about performance can take place. Strong leaders are
candid; they have no problem addressing poor performance, and
embrace the opportunity to make such conversations productive for
both the company as well as the employee. In addition, they set
clear expectations for their employees, measure their progress,
coach them when necessary and conduct more formal training as well.
Furthermore, effective leaders sense when it’s time to draw a line.
For instance, when they keep hearing a little voice inside their
head saying, “I hope he or she gets better,” they take that as a cue
that it’s time to ask some critical questions about that person’s
performance and take immediate, appropriate action.
So when you examine all these reasons behind why leaders and
managers keep the wrong person in the wrong job for too long, it’s
easy to see why this is the number-one leadership sin. But the good
news is leaders can easily change the potential for mistakes by
addressing the problem head-on. What’s the best way to do this?
Position employees for success by establishing a proven system for
accountability; properly delegating job responsibilities; providing
them with clearly defined goals; making sure their skills align with
the job and specific duties; and implementing that crucial coaching
Since the number-one sin that managers commit is to hang on
to that wrong person in the wrong position too long, there’s a
really good chance that you could be guilty. If that’s the case,
challenge yourself to uncover the reasons why you haven’t addressed
poor performers, develop a plan, follow your company’s performance
management policy, and take action now.
Key to positioning your employees for success is your own
ability to hold them accountable. The following checklist will get
you on your way to developing your own leadership skills, which
relate directly to accountability.
Set clear goals
and establish Vital Factors, the specific, key indicators of a
business’ health, for each person on the team. Communicate what
performance measures you’re going to use and what your
expectations are in terms of performance. Be specific, and focus
on results, not just activity.
Enlist the help
of a professional accountability coach to help you understand
what good accountability looks like and model accountability
weaknesses as an accountability leader and determine what you
personally need to develop.
system for accountability and use your established Vital
Factors, or the key measures of your company’s health, to
evaluate performance and take corrective action.
you deal with conflict. What should you do differently to modify
any resistance to conflict and improve upon your conflict style?
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