Leadership: Broken Down Beds & Employees

yard saleVisiting a community yard sale a few weeks ago, I stopped to talk with a neighbor about a bed she had for sale. When I walked away, it struck me that her approach to getting rid of an old, broken down bed is the same poor approach leadership sometimes makes when it comes to dealing with broken down employees.

My neighbor pointed to the bed on her driveway, lowered her voice, and said–

“This bed is awful. The few times we’ve slept on in over the last 20 years, we woke up with horrible backaches.”

Then she added, “If it doesn’t sell, I’m going to haul it out to the curb for anyone who wants it.”

As broken down as her bed was, she wasn’t willing to put forth the effort to take it to the dump. But she was more than happy to have someone take it off her hands. And if she made a few bucks in the process…BONUS!

Leadership often does the same thing with broken down employees.

A leader might bad-mouth those less-than-ideal employees. They desperately wish that someone would take them off their hands, like maybe some unsuspecting manager in another department. Or maybe, a leaders hopes, the employee will get miserable enough to find a job outside of the company. Leaders reason, I suppose, that it’s easier to do nothing and just let nature take its course.

Which is wrong on so many levels.

Leaders are responsible for getting departmental results and individual performer results.

Top leaders develop their people so their performance adds value to the team, department, and organization. Help an employee be successful. Or coach them out the door. Do you know what the best leaders don’t do? They don’t sit back and hope in vain that someone will just take those broken down employees off their hands. That kind of inaction is counterproductive and shortsighted, like shoveling out a horse stall by flinging the contents over the wall into the next stall.

Think of when you’ve inherited a broken down employee. Do you remember how “happy” you were that someone passed garbage on to you without so much as a warning that you’ve got your work cut out for you? I imagine you were just as happy as the person who brought home that broken down bed and then woke up the next day needing a chiropractor.

Leadership is about coaching to elevate employee performance.

And sometimes it’s about making tough choices to remove bad performers before they rub off on others. But you will never be more than a do-little manager if you do neither.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Chris Algozzine says:

    Great article Scott. As a former manager for many years at a Fortune 100 firm, I had my share of broken down employees to deal with, and I often found they would thank me when I told them honestly and succinctly where they were failing. I had one such employee tell me how I was the first manager in their long career who ever gave them good constructive feedback. As leaders we need to ensure we are honestly sharing performance information that will point out to our employees where they need to improve even if that feedback requires us to say things they may not want to hear.

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