You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by avoiding it today.
Many of us are familiar with the adage: "What goes around comes around." To me, this saying seems based on the notion of karma and accountability. In essence, the idea is that what you do (or don't do) at one period of time creates a cause-and-effect cycle that will at some point come back around as an "unintended consequence" of those earlier actions (or non-actions).
For instance, let's say that you discover a problem in a business process that is owned by a different department but has a negative impact on the performance and profitability of the company. As a manager, now that you are aware of the problem, you are professionally obligated to bring it to upper management's attention in order to find a solution. However, because the process resides in another department, and that department manager is known to be a tyrant and a bully, you hesitate for fear of getting told to mind your own business, or worse. Several weeks go by before you summon the courage to finally bring it up to the head of the department.
You soon learn that had you brought the issue up sooner, the department could have avoided the recent defection of a large customer. But bringing it up earlier might also have caused bad blood between you and the other department, because it was their process that was broken. Either action, now or later, has consequences and results with lasting impact on the individual and the company.
1st Deadly Sin of Poor Leadership: Not Moving Quickly Enough on Poor Performers
“Get the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats.” ~ Jim Collins
Most senior leaders coming into a company inherit their team from the previous regime, so one of the first obligations of leadership is to evaluate team members and make upgrades where necessary—either through performance coaching or replacing them.
But how should you conduct the evaluations and how quickly should you make a change? That is one of the key challenges facing any leader and, in my 35 years of experience, few do it well or fast enough.
There is a myriad of psychological profiles, business reviews, and other tools that can help. But at the end of the day, a good CEO knows the type of person she wants in a leadership role for the business situation the company is facing. Here are some of the questions good leaders use to evaluate team members:
- Do they inspire confidence and openness in their staff, or fear and mistrust?
- Is this person looking at the job and the company through a balanced set of objectives, or are they only concerned with costs and profits?
- Do their values and behaviors match the values needed for this company?
- Are they coachable or stuck in his ways?
- Do they help and support their peers or do they talk negatively about them?
- Do they take accountability for mistakes or point the finger?
- Do they think of the customer first, or the company EBITDA first?
Yes, these are subjective questions, but so is the act of leadership. It's not just numbers, its people and customers and culture as well.
Those early in their leadership careers often are the most reluctant to get rid of inappropriate senior staff. But the longer unsuited executives are tolerated, the more it hinders the organization. Moving too slowly undermines the development of a new culture, negatively affects respect (because, like it or not, everyone in the company knows who the poor performers are at the top), damages trust and morale, and has a negative impact on overall business performance.
Case in Point: In one company, the new CEO tolerated a very weak head of sales and business development for more than two years, and company revenue declined by nearly 40 percent during that time period. Acting more quickly would have allowed time for the right person to be found and begin to make a positive contribution. What’s more, the rest of the senior team would have gained greater respect for the new CEO, who was ultimately replaced after three years.
Bottom line: a new leader (even a CEO) must be prepared with the following capabilities in order to build the best teams:
- an effective and simple way to evaluate the skills, capabilities, and leadership style of each manager (looking over a CV or resume is not the solution)
- an effective way to gain an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the current leadership team
- an understanding of the overall company culture and its strengths and weaknesses, and whether the culture is aligned with the business and strategic objectives
- an understanding of whether the senior team works well together to solve business problems; do they work together or just deliver on their individual budgets and objectives?
- an understanding of the current level of trust and respect that employees have for senior management; are they inspired, demotivated, or do employees just show up to earn a living?
Unless the new leader can adequately gather the above information, it will be difficult to make the right decisions about who should be on the team and who needs to move on.
Are you prepared to make the people decisions that will drive your new company forward? Or are you in a wait and see mode?