No, the picture is not of me, but it could be. I am not known for my patience in any capacity, most notably on the road. Being the driver I am, I blow a gasket when I get behind an idiot driver who is in the center lane, not going the speed limit or even attempting to keep up with traffic. Although I do not have the scientific proof, I would surmise 78% of most wrecks on major highways are caused by idiots who just do not want to get with the program. The remaining 22% are caused by the other idiots who rubberneck to gaze upon wrecks not even on their side of the highway. (Just a tip for this 22%, watch the news that night!)
In a recent bout with road rage, I began thinking how similiar it is on a team when one person is just not “on the bus” as stated in the great book: Good to Great. Just imagine, everyone is moving at a rapid pace toward the destination, you the fearless leader have set. There is excitement, thrill, progress, then there you spot it. The lone idiot in the middle lane going 20 miles under the speed suggestion, I mean limit, you set. And as you sit there and silently in your mind throw your hands up, pull your hair, and throw objects in your office it happens… the wreck.
In the last post, “Do the team a favor-Get Rid of the Loser“, we talked about the effect one cancer cell has on your team. Now that we have identified the who, let’s deal with the strategy.
So, back to the interstate. There I am, stuck behind this moron of a driver as minivans pass me at what seems to be mach speed on the interstate. It is in this moment (what seemed like an eternity), that I had this revelation. The same thing was I was telling the moron in front of me is most often what needs to be said to the cancer cells in a team. Go Faster (or up is more approriate), Get over (find a better suited job in the company), or Get Out (if you need an explanation to this one, you might be the moron in front of me).
Go Faster, Coach Up
This can be a very positive experience. In most cases, I have witnessed once cancerous cells become very productive after a meeting where they have been coached up. Now, coaching up does not necessarily mean the conversation is all rosy, touchy-feely, hey you’ve done great but we need more. On the contrary, this conversation needs to be very truthful and direct. Note what needs to change and come right out with it. No dancing around the hall, taking them to dinner, or anything like that. Go right for the one-two punch.
One particular item of note about this group is that you believe they can get the job done. Let’s face it, all of us have those moments where we need to be kicked in the tailend and given a reality check. It does not mean we are meaning to be cancerous or setting out to be cancerous, we just need a AA (attitude adjustment). If this is the case, the more direct you are with the conversation, the better the chances of success are with this group. Eventually, they can be your superstars and perhaps, your most loyal fans. In reality, everyone who is success driven embraces truth eventually, no matter how harsh it is.
Get Over, Coach Over
In my years of management, there have been times where I have found myself secretly choke-slamming members of my team because they just do not seem to get it. After I get out of my happy place and back into reality, I sometimes notice small little bread crumbs leading to the ultimate epiphany about these individuals. It is not a success factor missing in this person, it’s a job fit.
Case in point- I had one team member who I really wanted to introduce to the choke slam maneuver. She just didn’t seem to cut it in the sales culture I was trying to cultivate in the team I was managing at the time. She would get so bogged down by processes and such, often giving excuses as to why her goals were not met. Of course, my first reaction was, “Um, tough.” Over time, however, I began to notice she was really good at solving problems. Those clients who came in needing someone to dig to find a bean located in a pile of hay loved her. In fact, most of the more sales-like people on my team would refer those types of clients to her so they could move on to the next sale. That’s when it hit me. She wasn’t an idiot driver, she just didn’t need to be on the interstate.
Coaching someone over can take some time, but again, if handled the right way, can be the saving grace of a potentially star employee. There are a number of personality or strength tests out there to determine if your team members are in the right job fits. Although I do not know a lot about engines, I do know if you put the wrong gear in the wrong place, the engine will not work. All of us are designed for a purpose, and you, as the leader, are poised to put the right pieces together to ensure success for your team.
Get Out of the Way, Coach Out
Ok, so, this person you are thinking of is not someone who just needs a kick in the tail because you have already tried that several times. They are not someone who is experiencing a job misfit. They are just someone who loves to make life hell for everyone, no matter the reason. They come in late, have a bad attitude, have no desire to change, and if you were to think to hard about it, you might become paranoid they secretly plot your removal. So, what do we do with them?
Well, for the true idiot driver, there’s only one thing to do in the interest of public safety and sanity. Get them off the road completely. Suspend their license, give them a bike, or my favorite, push them off the road. These cancerous people have to go. Become as precise as a surgeon and go in to remove that tumor from your team. There are a lot of benefits both to the team and to the individual for doing this. Benefits to the individual? Yes, here are a couple:
- No one has ever stood up to them, but you will change that mindset. In a sense, you make it better for the next manager they decide to work for.
- You give them some time to reflect on why they needed to get out of the way. Again, who knows, this might be the epiphany they are needing for their own health. If they are like this in a work setting, could you imagine what they are like at home? Just think, if you are able to get them to snap out of it, you might save their family life inadvertently as well.
All joking aside, these are serious steps you need to take and need to document for your own safety. As an HR professional, one piece of advice I have given time and time again is to document, document, document. If you do have to pull the trigger and drop kick someone off the team, you need to be fair about it and go through the necessary disciplinary steps associated with your company policy. Be sure to solicit feedback from other managers or team members about the individual in question to be sure it’s not you that is the problem. Just be sure to do so in a very professional way.
Benefits to the team:
- You show you care. I cannot tell you how many times, after finally helping a manager pull the trigger, I would have other employees come to me to say, “Thank goodness you finally did something about that.” If you have star performers, you need to protect them or they’ll leave. Don’t let rust build up on your team. Eliminating is a great way to show them you care.
- You fix other problems on the team. In my experience, I have noticed how the removal of one cancerous, toxic individual can change the entire functionality and attitude of a team. This has happened recently with a group of people I was convinced were out to make my life complicated. Once one individual was removed, I began to notice, I really do like the remaining bunch. My dad always taught me to pick the biggest bully out, take them down, and watch their posse become good friends. Same is true in business. If you take down the ring-leader, sometimes you notice the little posse they had isn’t so tough. That’s what you call an added-value transaction.
So, the next time you’re behind that idiot in traffic, I bet you will now be reminded to use the time to reflectively evaluate your team. See, I just gave you a silver lining around that dark cloud known as the idiot in the middle lane! Happy coaching!
Trent Cotton has spent a number of years in management and business consulting. After spending some time in the field, he joined the HR department, beginning in recruiting and eventually serving as the Department Head of HR for one of the major lines of business. With such a varied background, he works to bring all of these together to help organizations incorporate best practices into their business to help them succeed. In his free time, he also writes a lot on his other blog, Christian Men, Christian Warrior.
For my professional resume, click here