I’ve had 11 jobs over the course of my career. In three I’ve truly excelled by anyone’s standards, fiive have been successful but not notable and in the other three I felt that I had a ball and chain around my ankle and personally felt that I was barely scraping by.
In those roles in which I give myself a failing grade, it’s not that I was horrendous or a psychopathically poor at my job. I just didn’t get the product, the sales cycle, the value proposition, the management style, the ‘insert your own reason for knowing this isn’t the right fit’ here.
I’m not indicting anyone for being average but, as I look back on the impact that I’ve had on the companies that I worked with, I wonder whether all involved may have been better off with us parting ways earlier, or simply not having been hired in the first place. That’s why understanding what truly motivates your people is critical.
In most situations, people end up leaving, or being asked to leave, because of a lousy attitude. Folks can learn, can be coached, and can rise to the occasion if they care about the company and what they’re doing. But if they don’t see the light or grab the essentials of the business, then they’re ultimate just taking up space.
The act of ending something, and moving on with your life, are brought out evocatively in the book ‘Necessary Endings’ by Henry Cloud. Moving on is a natural part of business and life, yet we often experience them with a sense of hesitation, sadness, resignation, or regret. If we can’t see these endings in a positive light and try to figure out how to execute them well, Cloud states that the “better” will never come either in business growth or our personal lives.
The harsher side of the ‘moving on/endings’ model was highlighted by Jack Welch of GE. He was notorious for continuing to cull out the bottom 10% of performers in his organization. Microsoft and a number of major companies followed suit, and what they ended up with was a seething mosh pit of desperate employees not wanting to be in the bottom 10% and willing to do anything to look good, or at least look better than their peers.
There is a sense of helplessness, or hopelessness, that surrounds those to which the role and/or your company is simply not suited. Every company has its own criteria but deep down inside we know if that team member brushes with just being OK, has real potential that needs nurturing or coaching, or is a clear winner.
The fewer of the ‘just OK’s’ that you carry around with you, the happier you and your people will be.
They’ll see you weeding out mediocrity and striving for more. That’s a battle cry that every one of your team will rally around.