Thursday, February 16, 2012

Life Skill: Management via Witch Hunt Never Pans Out

Wow. An article on LinkedIn lead me to this video post about why it's important to fire ineffective employees. On the one hand, yes, those who don't pull their weight or who contribute to poor team performance should certainly be dealt with. And yes, this may mean letting them go if various strategies and solutions prove ineffective. Poor performance left to fester will absolutely bring the team down.

But the example Kevin Ryan, CEO of Gilt, provides in his video to illustrate his point is an eye opening view of just how systemic issues can be between managers and employees in an organization.

To sum up in case you don't have a chance to view the 5 minute video...

Kevin opened this video segment by suggesting that each team has a low performer. (Ok, if you want to focus on the negative, fine.) Those who are at the bottom are most likely not on the right career path. (Possibly true, but objective? No. A personal opinion only.) Kevin then went on to describe how these ideas might be used in the real world: He hired a new manager for an existing team and directed this manager to build a great team in 5 months. He set three objectives:
  1. Evaluate the people you have now and lay off the people that don't fit.
  2. Promote people internally.
  3. Maintain and retain your best people.
What he found was that by the 4th month, valuable employees had left, moral was low and when he finally fired the manager for not completing the task effectively, employees on the team were more damaged and upset than what was originally believed.

Well, Kevin, what did you expect?!

You coached and directed your newly appointed employee, a manager, to "Go in, find the bad apples and eliminate them." You sent him on a witch hunt. A surefire way to damage team moral, kill employee engagement and obliterate any sense of value the employees might have felt working for the organization. You set this new manager up for disaster by coaching him to "lay off the people that don't fit."

Laying people off should never be the first objective. And at the very least the objective should be to lay off the people that won't fit. Those that prove that they are not willing to align with the goals of the team.

There are always going to be employees who are not performing well. Maybe stuff at home has gotten the better of them. Maybe they have lost their zest for their job and aren't sure of the company's direction. Maybe (gasp!) it's you... Maybe you're only seeing their faults and forgetting to look for their strengths and the value they bring to the team because you're blindly following orders to eliminate the bad apples. Who knows. But a manager with strong people management skills knows how to
  • engage their employees to solve problems collaboratively (often this takes time to get to know the new staff)
  • persuade people to align with the company's objectives (persuasion does not involve coersion or manipulation but an attitude based on reciprocity)
  • coach and train their staff to bring their personal best (this also takes time because it involves implementing different strategiesand assessing their success)
  • all while rewarding and appreciating successes (focusing on the positive)
  • providing constructive feedback (mentoring using non-threatening, supportive tactics)
  • being open enought to accept and learn from criticism too (hey, we're all in this together)

Phew! Yep, that's a lot to remember. A lot to focus on. But if you're a manager, that's the primary function of your job: Managing people.

Management is not just about drafting the best people to be on your team and simply benching or immediately firing those who aren't. Management is about coaching and mentoring people to become a winning team together. I guess Kevin hasn't seen Moneyball yet.

I hope Kevin Ryan's advice was just a quick soundbite taken out of context because an attitude for simply eliminating people and their problems is a recipe for disaster when it comes to managing people. Employees invest time and effort into their jobs and careers no matter what their current level of productivity. It takes minimal investment by a manager to simply avoid, ignore and eliminate people. That's called passing the buck, not solving a problem.

No comments:

Post a Comment