The Five Toughest Personnel Decisions


Part 3 of 5

“I’m at a loss about what to do about Margaret.” a manager said to me.

“What is the concern?” I asked.

“We hired Margaret about a year ago to manage a troubled group.  Although she has worked very hard, performance continued spiraling downward.”

“Were your expectations clear?”

“Yes, and she admits that she has fallen far short.”

“Did you give Margaret enough support?”

“Yes, we fully financed what she requested.  We met frequently and often agreed on needed changes.  For some reason, Margaret was unable to effect the changes or she took too long.”

“Were there unexpected challenges, things that blew up seemingly out of nowhere?”

“Not really, she had issues with a couple of employees and she had to replace a vendor but nothing too unusual.”

Margaret is an example of a good cooperate citizen who tried hard but was unable to achieve a tough goal.  There is a temptation to lower expectations and continue supporting hard working employees who do not achieve desired outcomes.

I believe, though, this is a case where the person just did not have the wherewithal to get the job done.  While it is heart-wrenching to remove a hard-working, committed employee, I think it would be better for all—including Margaret—to replace her and try again.

Leaders Set Expectations High–But How High?


Compare the philosophies of two leaders.

“I say the sky is the limit.  I ask my team to do more than what they are capable of doing because I want to get all that they have to give.”

“I try to be reasonable.  I don’t expect my staff to be super humans, but I do ask them to do what I know they can do.”

More than six in ten of my workshop participants think the first leader gets better results.  Considerable research and my personal experiences suggest the second leader accomplishes more.

Before employees commit to going all in for some leader’s high-flying vision, they must believe there is an eighty to ninety percent chance of success.   Unrealistic pipe dreams do not fuel sustained employee effort.

If a team historically performs in the bottom ten percent of an industry metric, I can assure you neither the team members nor the leader has a clue of how to become Number One. Figure out how to get into the top half.  When top-half performance becomes reality, the leader can adjust the expectation to “let’s take aim on the top one-third.”

While moving from a top one-third position to industry leader is hard, members are more likely to buy in because, from where they are, the expectation seems realistic.