Sending a message

By David J. Friedman, Founder/CEO

Here’s a situation nearly every company faces at one point or another:  Suzie is your biggest producing salesperson, handling some of your most important customer relationships.  But she also drives everyone crazy because she has a terrible attitude, is demanding of everyone in your organization, speaks to the support staff in a demeaning way, frequently fails to honor her commitments, and consistently violates key principles you’re trying to instill in your culture.  She comes up as an issue in every management meeting, you’ve tried coaching her, but nothing seems to help.  What do you do?

The behavior you tolerate

People like this really test our resolve and our seriousness about our culture.  If we don’t address the situation, we’re essentially telling out staff that our culture is really important here unless you produce enough business!  In fact, I often tell my workshop participants, “The best way to really know your culture is to look at the behavior you tolerate.”  Regardless of what you say, and the posters on your walls, the real culture is defined by what you allow to go on every day.

When you finally get rid of one of those people, you send a loud, clear message to anyone who was “sitting on the fence” about your culture.  Letting a person go who was a low performer is easy, but letting go a high performer takes a lot more courage and makes a far bigger statement.

What took so long?

Interestingly, nearly every leader who’s finally made one of these decisions experiences three things afterwards:

  1. Everyone else says, “Thank you!  What took so long?  We were wondering when you were going to do something about her.”
  2. The leader says to him/herself, “Wow.  I should have done this a long time ago!”
  3. All the things we feared would happen if we let the person go, don’t.  The rest of the team picks up the slack and we move on as a better and stronger company.

And here’s another thing to consider:  not confronting the issue actually puts some of your best people in jeopardy of leaving.  The best people are frustrated watching this scene play out and go unaddressed.  At some point, they’re likely to leave your company and go somewhere where this kind of behavior isn’t tolerated.

To be clear, I’m a big advocate for coaching and mentoring and am not at all suggesting that we terminate people at the first sign of trouble.  However, at some point it becomes clear that this person is unable or unwilling to change and a choice has to be made.  Great leaders make the hard choices that demonstrate their commitment to the principles they hold dear.

If you’d like to learn more about how to bring more clarity and commitment to your culture, just give us a call or shoot us an email, or consider joining us and other leaders for Culture Summit 2017.

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