Are your top performers slumping? Is it difficult to deal with the chronic underperformer? You know they can do better. Rather than being seduced by their potential, ensure you have their commitment around making change and the evidence of change you need to make the best decision. Choose from a place of certainty rather than potential.
Complete transcript taken from a live Q&A session in Phoenix.
The word you said that I really want to hone in on is this word right here, potential. In my book, I talk about something called “The Seduction of Potential.” So what does that mean? Here’s an example.
We may look at the person who’s under performing; maybe it’s someone we’ve had on our team and maybe they were a top performer for awhile. All of a sudden, their numbers start to dip.
So what do we say? We say, “Wait, I know they can do this. Let me try to encourage them. Let me give them a little more time.”
And we give them a little more time and we’re looking at our metrics and we’re looking at our numbers and we’re saying, “Nothing’s improving.”
So we go back to that person and we say, “Hey, what’s going on?” Maybe they say something like, “Well boss, you know I had that personal problem at home? Well, I just dealt with it. Everything’s cool now, so next month, I’m pretty confident my numbers are going to go up, so just give me a little more time.”
And you’re saying to yourself, “Okay…I know they have it in them. I see their potential. I’ll give them a little more time.”
Then another month passes and then they come to you and say, “Hey boss, I know I said I was going to hit my number last month, but that deal that I forecasted, I just want to give you a heads up…” Don’t you love it when they say that? “I just want to give you a heads up.” You know nothing good is following after that statement!
“I just want to let you know about that deal I thought was going to close this quarter; it’s not going to close anymore. So, I think it’s going to happen next month or next quarter.”
Then, what do you say to yourself? You say to yourself, “You know what, this has been going on for 3 or 4 months already but I really want them to be successful. I know they can do it. And the pain of letting them go, and the cost of having to replace someone is so much exponentially more time consuming and cost inefficient, I’ll just give them another month.”
Then, before you know it, you turn around and realize you have an underperformer on your team for 6 months, 8 months, a year, 2 years? All because we were seduced by the potential we see in people.
What’s missing in this equation in order to make the best and right decision is certainty, the commitment from the other person that they want to change and the evidence of change every manager needs to see in order to make the right decision.
When managers work with their underperformers, coaching them identify and commit to weekly activities, actions and results, now the underperformer is either honoring their commitments or they’re not. After a few weeks, you have all the evidence you need to determine whether or not this person is a good fit for the position, the company and your team.
Rather than stressing over having to make this tough decision (“Do I keep them or fire them?” “How much more time should I give them?”), you’ve empowered your underperformers to make the decision for you by having them self-select. At the end of the day, they are the ones making the choice to honor their commitments. Now, you as the manager never have to feel that you’re the “bad guy” and the one making the decision for them. Why?
Because you now have something that you don’t have when being seduced by potential. That is, certainty and evidence of change. Now, that underperformer is the one who made the choice for you; and for them.