Recently, in preparation for a long, 1200-mile road trip (nasty winter weather coupled with living in a high airfare market causes one to do things like that), I shopped for juice, fruit, and bottled water to take along as car snacks. While picking through the bin of Honeycrisp apples, I couldn’t help but notice that commingled with my objets du desir were some Red Delicious and McIntosh apples, together with bruised and indeed rotting Honeycrisps. Not wanting to spend time sorting the grocer’s fruit, I grabbed two Honeycrisps and moved on, rather than searching for more.
Not unlike my experience in the market, our customers come into contact every day with the efforts (or lack thereof) of mis-sorted, burned out, and mistakenly hired workers. As leaders, the quicker we can identify and deal with those situations, the better it is for all concerned.
We’ve all heard the saying that, “one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch.” There’s actually underlying truth to that statement. An apple that has been dropped or otherwise damaged gives off ethylene gas, which poses a risk to nearby fruit, thus reducing its desirable properties and shelf life. They may not give off prodigious quantities of ethylene gas, but workers who, by virtue of pace, preference, or behavior don’t fit the organization are equally toxic, and need to be removed. To those who might think that sounds rather cold and callous, I would submit that it is considerably more inconsiderate to ignore such a situation, and perpetuate the damage over a longer period. Indeed, the damage that accretes to that person’s coworkers, not to mention customers and your reputation as a leader are incalculable.
Sometime this week, I would encourage you to ask yourself the following questions, and then act upon the outcome.
- Who are my three best people?
- Why do each of them stay with me, and with this organization?
- Conversely, do I have anyone who clearly doesn’t belong here?
Hopefully, each of these questions will result in a meaningful conversation with the affected employees. In one case you’ll be asking how we can do more of what keeps the person here, and what impediments to their progress might be removed from their path. In the other, you’ll be admitting a problem that each of you knows about, and resolving to correct it before another week passes.