Finding, attracting and retaining talent has become not only one of the highest priorities for most companies but also one of the toughest things to do well. Even companies that have a strong recruiting and selection process often struggle to do both.
It's a challenge to recognize and react to poor performers quickly, even when confronted with clear and objective data. Of course, blind loyalty to people who helped a CEO found and grow a company is one of the most common reasons an executive keeps a lackluster employee on the payroll.
Jobs always outgrow people. This doesn’t mean those employees are bad. It just means that as jobs become larger and more complex, some individuals won’t be able to keep up.
One of the worst sins of a business owner is knowing that an employee cannot be successful in his or her current job and not doing anything about it. This doesn’t necessarily mean letting them go. It's possible to find another “seat on the bus” for the individual where he or she might be able to succeed. But remember, there is almost no return on investment in spending time trying to fix C players in their current position. It rarely works.
The worst scenario is when a leader knows the individual won’t succeed but justifies keeping the person on, thinking it’s better to have someone, anyone, in the position than having no one at all. This rationalization is one of the worst examples of poor leadership that I can think of.
Keeping obvious C players around means a leader is sending the message to everyone on the team that he or she either, doesn’t recognize the problem or is afraid to deal with it. Either way, it sends a message of weakness that every employee can see.
A players don't want to work with or around C players. When C players (who usually dodge assignments and accountability) are tolerated, it often means the A players end up doing most of the work, which isn’t fair. Since A players can always find another job, it means ultimately the company loses its best people bu keeping the worst around. Imagine trying to execute strategic plans and arriving at results with an entire team of below average employees!
When I think back to all of the personnel changes I’ve had to make in my career, after much angst and hesitation, I have always asked myself, “Why didn’t I move the person sooner, when I knew I needed to?”
In almost every case, after I took the required action, it was like a breath of fresh air at my company. People reacted, “Ah, Jim has finally come out of his coma and taken the action we all knew had to happen.”
Employees started volunteering to help out for the next six months while I looked for a replacement. There isn’t a single case I can recall where something really bad happened by making the choice to fire or move a C player.
So when leaders keep around C players (or the warm bodies), it's almost always worse than having nobody for a short period of time.
Instead, ask other employees to step up to fill in on an interim basis. This sends a clear message that a real leader will not tolerate poor performers and assures everyone on the team that there is a culture of accountability to engender execution and results.
Do you have any warm bodies at your company? If so, what are you going to do about them?
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