Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
By Doug Beckley
In my work with CEOs and business owners, one of their most common and crippling challenges is how to hold key people accountable. The CEO knows how to produce strong business results and depends on key people to help produce them. These people often let them down. What follows is a maddening series of uncomfortable conversations, false starts and performance fix-it plans. And still, results are not achieved. Or if they are, the CEO was forced to do other people’s jobs.
Holding people accountable is the classic “simple just not easy” dilemma. Most of us are familiar with accountability principles - set clear, measurable expectations; empower and support people; and hold regular progress and feedback meetings. These work – but only if they culminate in a definitive solution.
If you have a key manager or employee who has continued to underperform, and you have done your best to set them up for success, it is time to consider whether you have the wrong person on the bus. They may be very talented and replacing them seems riskier than continuing to over-manage them. But this mindset is a slippery slope that ultimately ends with you becoming a hostage. The employee is in now charge. Give them the launch codes.
Breaking this sad cycle is no longer about accountability. It is about putting a deadline on accountability - and the related efforts to change or improve this person. Once this deadline has passed, you no longer have an accountability problem, you have a recruiting problem.
Leaders often don’t recruit an underperformer’s replacement out of two misconceptions. “I can still fix them” and “I can’t find anyone better to replace them”. These are the mating calls of the hostage. These paradigms are reinforced with other silly notions such as thinking your industry is different, your labor pool doesn’t contain talent you can afford, or the training time is too long to contemplate. There is no perfect employee. However, there is likely an employee out there who is more perfect for you.
The real problem is this: our recruiting process is weak. It lacks diligence. We slap up an ad on Indeed, higher a recruiter, work our network, etc. Then, we are disappointed. We are like scorned young lovers, never to trust the process again.
Fix your recruiting problem. Read a book. Learn best practices. Build and invest in a professional talent recruiting system that produces a selection of A-players from which to choose. This article will not include tips and tricks on the elements of the system. You don’t need tips and tricks. You need the hard realization that there are companies in your industry hiring A-players on a consistent basis without overpaying. And you can too.
There is a reason that companies like Disney and Amazon have consistently better people than their direct competitors. And it’s not that they pay twice that of other companies. One of the driving reasons these organizations have great people is because they have built a world-class talent recruiting, hiring and retention system.
Once you have a better alternative to your poor performers, you now have options. You are no longer a hostage. You have been liberated! Your business results can be achieved. Go forth, find great, talented and loyal professionals. Unleash them on your mission. Then, on your next vacation (which you will take and enjoy), ask yourself, “What took me so long?”
If you want to discuss how to consistently hold your people accountable, call me at 702-379-6524.