Empowering leaders stand up for standards
I recently met with the president of a fast growing specialty retailer of garden hobby products. Their stores extend from Everett, Washington to San Diego, California. They are on a steep growth curve. The Saturday prior to our meeting, I conducted a daylong session for all of his key personnel. He had flown them up from San Diego and down from Washington. He closed his stores for the day. This is highly unusual. He knows that his firm can create sustainable competitive advantage with superior customer service because his competitors have a reputation for being elitist snobs.
My client told me he had been experiencing sleepless nights and stomach cramps because of one of his managers’ failed performance. Then he gave me specific details about this store manager’s performance – coming in late, leaving the store early, being rude to customers and unprofessional with his staff. One of the key employees in that store had threatened to quit because of this manager. When it was suggested that the manager be moved from his current store back to the store he came from, those employees said, “If you bring him back, I’m quitting.” He went on for some time. I finally said, “You’ve got to fire him!”
My client’s attorney advised that he must further document all of the issues. I know appropriate documentation can be required. I also know it can be too easy to use legalities as an excuse for not making the tough calls that successful leaders make. I asked, “How soon are you going to take care of this?” He promised he would have it done by Friday. I reminded him of the old Ross Perot observation; “What the average manager does is ready, aim, aim, aim, aim.” We have all heard the cliché about the manager who is “ready, fire, aim.” The best leaders are “ready, aim, fire.” They are never “ready, aim, aim, aim, aim.” Sometimes the only way, the best way to learn is to fire.
I have advised my clients for 20+ years, “If you have an employee who’s not fired with enthusiasm, and you can’t fire them with enthusiasm, then fire them with enthusiasm.” This may sound cavalier, I
can’t be sure. What I can be sure of is that you will never build a high performance organization with people who have made a decision, for whatever reason, not to engage. Your job is not to rehabilitate the resigned. Your job is to provide opportunities for motivated team members to be successful; set high standards, ask associates at every level to strive for those high standards, coach, train and develop engaged team members. Your job is to encourage, support and reward successful performance. When you do your part and associates choose not to engage, you must discharge them. It’s part of your job. So as a final reminder, if you have people on your team who are not fired with enthusiasm, and you can’t fire them with enthusiasm, then fire them with enthusiasm.
For a good laugh, read the attached “Dead Horse Management.”
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