The Leadership Cop-out, the Employee Hot Potato

Dan was talking this week about how real leaders do the right thing, even (or especially) when it means that you have to let a poor performer go. You all know that I’m a big believer in job fit. Finding a role that leverages your strengths is critical for success. For some, finding the right role can be a process of trial and error, using our failures to course correct is a part of personal growth. Sometimes coaching and role adjustment can turn a lack-luster performer into a star. But we all know that there are times when the problem is not just job fit, it is job attitude.

When an individual has a negative attitude you are dealing with a cancer that impacts the whole team. It is the job of the manager to resolve the situation quickly and fairly. Too often, weak managers resolve their situation by creating an employee hot potato. These disgruntled employees find themselves sharing (and often compounding) their negative attitudes across multiple groups as they bounce from manager to manager, each too weak to take action.

Moving performance problems around the organization is one of the worst kinds of management cop-outs. It is not honest for the individual, and it is not good for the company. It is not leadership, it’s cowardly.

I am well aware that the process of resolving performance problems takes considered thought and diligence. Even when attempting to do the right thing, it is often not black and white. We all want to make sure we have given enough chances to the employee and have done our best to coach them to improvement. I would not want anyone to take this process lightly. I would just like to encourage you all to make sure you are honest with yourselves that you are not perpetuating performance problems in other groups because you are too lazy to deal with them yourself.

If you are not sure, get help from your HR team. HR professionals can support you through the tough job of coaching the team member to acceptable performance or terminating. It is the role of HR to make sure that the process is fair for the employee, the impacted team, and the company.

Repeat after me, no more employee hot potatoes!


This blog was originally posted on TalentedApps.

How to Not be a C-Player

I was reading the HBR article called A New Game Plan for C Players and it got me thinking. Of course, the point of the article was how C-players hurt your business. They are bad for morale of the rest of the team, and as a good friend of mine says, “they can do negative work” – suggesting that having a C-player around can actually cause you to spend more time fixing their work than just doing it yourself correctly the first time. 

What struck me though, was that while we all tend to agree that yes, C-players are bad for our teams, and yes, we should be better about taking action, I don’t feel that we actually spend time doing self-reflection to see if maybe we ourselves might be performing at less than our own A-game.

I was reminded recently that the most critical thing to “get right” for ourselves and our teams is a well aligned role to the individual. Keeping all examples to myself to avoid offending anyone, I can say with confidence that if my job were to help people who are lost get out of the woods, it is clear I would be the worst suited for it. If nagging people about deadlines and commitments is the job, then I’m a much better fit. Just ask my husband.

I have had the fortune (twice actually) of finding myself interviewing for a position in which the job description was a complete match for my experience. In both cases, these jobs were not only rewarding for me personally, I also managed to deliver products that had significant monetary benefit for the companies that hired me. By all measures this was A-player work. I was happy, I was challenged, and the work I delivered benefited. 

On the flip side, I have also managed to get myself stretched outside of my core competencies in such a way that the results of my efforts were so inferior I could not even fire myself, but had to give myself the task of cleaning up the mess first. While this made for a great poster and I did learn a lot, in retrospect, I know I should have done a better job in recognizing the signs and doing something about them, as a lot of people got hurt as a result of my C-player work.

So what is my real message here? First, I’d encourage us each to realize that we are each capable of both A-player and C-player work. For the majority of us fortunate enough to be considered “professionals,” life is not a huxley-esque situation where you are pre-defined as an alpha or an epsilon. 

It is up to us to best determine 

  • How do we quantify our talents? 
  • How do we align our talents with the jobs we are given? 
  • How do we push ourselves to give our best performance? 

Not just for the benefit of the company, but for the benefit of ourselves. Like anything else, the best way to “not” be a C-player is to take an active role in your own performance. What do you have to lose?

This blog was originally posted on TalentedApps.