As a leader, consider the times when you are at your best. Now, consider when you are struggling to keep your head above water. There are many factors that influence performance; however, very few have the power to totally hijack your performance in a New York minute.
The single biggest results hijacker in your life is a poor performer as a direct report. And let me be clear, poor performance includes mediocre. These are people who are:
- Miscast in their role (wrong seat on the bus)
- Poor cultural fits (picture conversations about non-outcome based complaints, how they are mistreated by others, why they are stressed out….)
- Uncommitted to excellence (picture long conversations about personal lives instead of goals, constantly finding the person at someone else’s desk, above average requests for flexibility, time away, personal time)
- Dependent (and thus needing a co-dependent or micro-managing supervisor). These folks may have all the talent in the world, but they will not take ownership, are indecisive, talk in circles to whomever will listen, and basically are governed by a fear of failure.
In each category, you will find people of varying skills & talents. In fact, your smartest team member could fall in any one of these 4 categories. And thus, you will try, try, and try some more to help them self-optimize, get it, and work to their potential. And they won’t. At least not quickly or easily.
All the while, your performance is suffering. Everyone impacts results, and you (and your entire team) are suffering from this person’s choice to be a weak link. And yes, I believe being a weak link is a choice because everyone has the sole responsibility to choose a role, a company, and an opportunity that allows them to soar.
Much like the Titanic, the real risk is what lies below the surface unseen without scrutiny:
- You are sending a clear message to your team that mediocre performance, high maintenance needs, and lack of drive are tolerable. And if you coach your team on demanding the best of themselves, you are sending a message that it is more than tolerable but acceptable.
- You are investing your time in overcompensating for / training / talking to someone who doesn’t get it. A great mentor once told me to begin my investment in a team member only after they began a rigorous investment in themselves.
- You are sucked of all energy and zest after you interact with this person. Admit it- they are driving you crazy! You go home and talk to your significant other about them, use a peer as a sounding board to share the “latest event” you had with them… Need I go on? Time is a trade-off. Would you be willing to cancel dinner with your family to listen to this individual talk? NO! And yet, we are doing exactly that by taking this person to our dinner conversation and strategic discussions.
As a leader, we can get AMAZING results by coaching our team. But don’t be confused – not everyone is coachable. If you have someone who falls into the above description, you have only one choice – remove them from your team and the sooner the better. Does that sound callous? Let us not forget that no one enjoys being the weak link and thus, in a way, you are freeing them to learn a lesson and find their professional nirvana. (Be honest with them when you let them go so they have a fighting chance at getting the lesson!) Also, we all have the ability to create a network of friends, and family members that will love and coddle us throughout our lives; we do not need our employer to join this group! We need our employer (as represented by our supervisor) to demand excellence from us and celebrate with us when we get it. This is where your time matters. Choose well!