MOVE THEM UP OR MOVE THEM OUT

I have long believed that managers need to always have a “ladder” of their people graded from best to worst performer. This is not just to ensure visibility of the top performers, but also to ensure identification of those that need help. The problem is that most managers find it very easy to work with the people who are doing well, as that generally means easy contact and positive conversations, but find it hard to work with those that are struggling, as that involves some confrontation and considerable effort.

I am not saying that managers should stop having significant focus on their best people, but I am often amazed at how many people don’t actually understand that they are not performing to the expectation of their immediate supervisor until they have their annual performance review at the end of the year, generally too late for remedial actions to be taken.

I believe that the role of a manager is to personally work with whoever is on the bottom rung of the ladder and to focus on helping them to move up. This generally means that the manager will need to expend effort as it involves some coaching, some development and some hand-holding from the manager (and even others) for a while, but this is one of the things that managers are meant to do anyway, even though few actually do so. Once the manager realistically feels that his charge has now moved off the bottom rung, this will then uncover the next person that needs help, and the manager can now shift his focus and efforts to this one. In this way, a manager will develop a team that is continually improving.

Keeping the focus just on the top performers may be easier but doesn’t necessarily achieve much improvement in the team. Moving a hi-performing employee from 100-105% performance is not only harder, but also doesn’t deliver as much benefit to team success as does moving a struggler from say 70-90%. Too many managers leave people sitting on the bottom rung for too long, without remedial action being taken quickly enough and then it becomes too late to do anything to save them.

I have always believed that if you hire people for their strengths then you can’t remove them for their weaknesses until you have made significant effort to help them to overcome these. Only after you have expended this effort jointly, and they are still sitting on the bottom, can you now consider more critical action hence “Move them up or move them out”.

I believe that the same holds true if a manager has a team where all are great performers and are all achieving their goals. There are still significant benefits to be gained by focussing on “moving up” whoever is the least of the hi-performers and keeping the whole process alive.

By “move them out”, I mean initially looking at whether they can be moved out of their current role, and into a role where their strengths can be used to add value to the organisation. If the recruitment process that brought them in to the organisation was well run and stringent, then there is significant chance that they can still be valuable in a different role. Only as a last resort should they be terminated. A “hire ‘em fire ‘em” attitude is too expensive and disruptive to any organisation, and should never be allowed to become a way of compensating for bad management practices.

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I LIVE TO WORK OR I WORK TO LIVE

The great thing about being a Manager is that you only have one primary objective.
All you have to do is to create an environment where people can be unbelievably successful.
I understand that this is easier to say than to do, but it’s not a bad starting point.

To me one of the critical measurements of this has always been whether your people will get up on a freezing cold, wet Monday morning and say “Thank God the weekend is over, I can now spend another 5 days at work”.

I am not talking about work/life balance here…. I am talking about work being an integral part of life.

I have always been staggered by how many people fail to make this association. I find it hard to understand how many people have the attitude that they have to “work” 5 days per week so that they can “live” the other 2 days per week. This means that many people spend about 70% of their life doing something that they basically dislike so that they can then spend 30% of their life doing “fun” things … like watching TV ?

I will quite often ask people to list the 10 things that they love doing most in life, based on the premise that if they could spend the major part of their life doing these 10 things that this would make their life more enjoyable, more interesting and more fulfilling. It is very rare that people put “watching Television” down as one of their Top 10, and yet it is amazing how much time people actually spend in front of the Box. The trouble is that it is just too easy to drop down on a sofa in front of the TV after a “hard day’s work”, even if there is nothing worth watching, and anyway, it is critically important that we are up-to- date with the News …. much more acceptable an excuse than watching the 56th rerun of “Friends”, which will be on next anyway.

In most cases the Top 10 things that we actually love to do tend to take some time, effort and planning… it’s a lot easier to just plonk ourselves down on the sofa. There has to be something worthwhile due to come on at some time on at least one of the 500 channels that are available.

WRONG !!!

I have numerous Anglophone friends in France that have both French and English satellite TV, which theoretically should give them about 1000 channels to choose from, but in reality they actually have access to about 20 channels repeated 50 times, just in different languages.

Now that I live in France, I am fascinated by the National obsession with retirement. Even 25 year olds freshly out of university, and starting their first job seem to already have their eye on when they can retire.
So can one assume that retirement in France means that a whole new world will open up when this Valhalla-like point arrives. That it will herald a whole new period of creativity and learning , and catching up with all those things that full-time work kept one away from.

It appears not to be the case. Most retirees seem to spend their time in front of their TV or sitting outside their cottage watching the traffic go by. I once got into trouble by suggesting at a conference that France could solve all its Energy needs by hooking up the chins of retirees to the National Grid. That way we could at least get some benefit out of all those heads swiveling round as another Peugeot or Citroen went through the village at warp speed.

I understand that there are many people who have had little choice in what they have had to do in life, and I deeply sympathise with them. However I don’t sympathise with those people I come across more often that are well educated and intelligent enough to make choices in their lives, and do little but complain about their lot.
In these cases, my advice is that if you won’t change your job, at least change your attitude. This is, after all, something that you can control 100%.