Thursday, September 4, 2008

Are the People You (Still) Have the People You (Still) Need?

A member brought up a familiar scenario in a meeting of Chief Executive Boards International. In short, he said that his own primary strengths were finding prospects, making sales visits, making proposals and persuading prospects to become customers, even at his typically-higher prices than his competition. That's not in itself a problem -- many business owners wish they had someone else to do all that, because they don't like to.

The problem was that the lady he has running his production operation (while he's selling) isn't the kind of leader he needs to take his business to the next level. Rather than a leader, she is more of a "yeller", and he fully realizes that this behavior of one of his key managers is not what he wants or needs. In fact, she may severely limit his ability to grow the business, and demand far too much of his time for damage control.

The Board members were nearly unanimous in their response -- that in many cases the people who help you bring the business up to a given level are not able to help you take it to the next level. In fact, they may become the people who keep you from taking the business forward. This is a real personal conflict for many business owners. They feel guity that they need to make a change, and that many times this means terminating or demoting a person who may have greatly helped them up to this point. So they actually sacrifice the success of themselves and everyone else in the business because of a misplaced allegiance to a person whom the business has simply outgrown.

The Board made several suggestions. First, in the words of Good to Great author Jim Collins, it's not just having "the right people on the bus", but also having them "in the right seats". If it's a good person with good skills, perhaps there's a less-critical job that she could do well. That makes her part of the solution, vs. part of the problem. They also suggested taking a hard look at what's best for all concerned -- for the owner, the business and the problem employee. Many times that's terminating the employee so she can go on with her career doing something she likes and that she's good at in an organization that matches her capacity. Hopefully, before the conflict between the two ruins what's probably a salvageable personal relationship. And the Board further encouraged him to address this sooner, rather than later, doubting that it was going to get better by itself.

Why does this happen? It's because times change, you change, the world changes and the company changes. And some people don't. Some people can grow with all that. Some can't, and the company, the job, or both just outgrow them. Which is too bad, and usually not your fault. Do your best to bring people along, train them, promote them and expose them to new things. If they can't stay on the bike, you need to act.

And, finally, one member summed it up by saying: "If in doubt, go with your gut." In most cases, your gut is right, and you need to pay attention to it. Business owners, particularly successful ones, have amazingly well-calibrated guts. If it doesn't feel right, that's a feeling you ought to pay attention to. When is it time to do something about a problem employee? Click Here for a related article.

If you've had an "outgrown employee" situation that you'd be willing to share, click on "Comments" below and let us know what you did and how it worked out.

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Terry Weaver

Chief Executive Boards International

Chief Executive Boards International: Freedom for business owners & CEOs -- Less Work, More Money, More Freedom to enjoy it

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