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The #1 Mistake in Business Today!

The #1 Mistake in Business Today!

Since 1997, I’ve been working with businesses both big and small.  There is one thing that stands out to me that successful businesses do better than struggling businesses that ultimately fail.  It is so simple – but it’s not easy.  What is it?

Letting underperformers go.  That’s it.  That’s the biggest mistake I see companies make.

It’s also the second most common reason I get hired to consult with companies.  First and foremost, I get contracted to help them hire Top Performers.  Second, I get hired to coach, develop, and hopefully turn around underperformers.

Sometimes the underperformers I coach have been underperforming for YEARS.  Why is it when someone obviously isn’t succeeding in a position have they been allowed to flounder for so long?

The three most common reasons are:

  1. The manager is overly empathetic to the person’s challenges.  “They are a nice person with a family and they try really hard.”
  2. The manager not only wants to avoid the gut wrenching job of having to let the person go but she or he is worried about the consequences.  “What if the person I fire becomes litigious or what if the next person I hire is worse?”
  3. The manager hopes for the best.  “Maybe the person can turn it around.  Perhaps I as a manager have not given them the proper direction or support they need to succeed.”

In all of these scenarios, the managers are overly focused on the needs and challenges of one individual.  Instead they need to think like Kerry Patterson, author of Crucial Conversations suggests, “It is my job to keep the company as competitive as possible thus securing the jobs of every employee and not just the one.”

If we truly understood the impact of allowing underperformers to remain in our organizations, we might be more willing to take on the difficult task of letting them go.

Here, in no particular order, are the consequences of some employees not carrying their fair share of the work…

  • Others are left to pick up the slack.
  • Top Performers begin to resent the underperformer(s), as well as the manager who allows them to stay.
  • [When the underperformers know they are not meeting expectations] they have to deal with personal disappointment.
  • [When the underperformers don’t know they aren’t meeting expectations] they are being set up for future failure.
  • The manager is likely so busy managing the underperformers that s/he neglects the development of Top Performers.

The bottom-line of all these consequences is that team and business results suffer.  And yet, ironically, suffering is what you are trying to avoid by not addressing the situation.

As with most things in life, you either suffer the effort of action or the results of non-action.

Think of health and wellness.  Either you endure the “pain” of exercise and restricting what you eat or eventually you suffer the pain of obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, etc.  It’s long term thinking versus short term thinking.

For the health of your business, carefully consider the long term consequences of keeping underperformers, and then take the actions necessary today to ensure your longevity.