Friday, 28 November 2014

Do you fear the "Big C"

Many years ago my boss, a SVP, asked me to have lunch to discuss my annual performance review.  He also suggested that I bring along a self evaluation for comparative purposes.  When we sat down he asked for my paper and after a short read he declared '...ya', I guess that about covers it...what do you want to eat...'

In a later role, on my first day on the job, my VP called me to his office and after closing the door he peered out his window and pointed at one of my new associates.  "He's no good" my boss declared.  "You must fire him"

Still later I inherited a group that was highly dysfunctional.  One employee with over 25 years service did not seem to do much and when I asked, no one really knew what he did.  Upon further investigation, I determined that no one really knew what he had done for some time.  But no one questioned his role in the company because of his seniority.  Hell, after that long with the company, surely he must be irreplaceable. 

I suspect that you have similar stories as well.  All are great examples of 'leaders' who are afraid of the BIG C...confrontation.  The situation is one that requires the leader to make a personal investment that makes them uncomfortable and so they simply ignore it and hope that it goes away.


Why is it that otherwise competent individuals so often shirk this important responsibility?  And what are the consequences to their actions? I can think of several responses to both questions.

As to why these people fail to act, I submit the following:
  1. They are hiding personal shortcomings that they don't want to have exposed and so failing to address a difficult decision allows them to subconsciously keep their own issue from coming to light.
  2. They have never been trained on how to professionally confront another person in the workplace.
  3. They fail to recognize the impact of their lack of action.
And as to the consequences, consider:
  1. Allowing a substandard performance to continue essentially means that you have lowered the level of acceptable performance for everyone.  You cannot hold others accountable to a higher level of expectation until you yourself have done so.
  2. You deny the individual in question the opportunity - and the need - to improve.  In many instances, the potential exists to deliver more but it has not been drawn out because of the ineffectiveness of the leader.  So by making that commitment to address an issue the leader positively impacts the individual, the company and themselves...a 3:1 return.
  3. The lower level of expectation can be communicated outside the company to both suppliers and to clients.  This often gives them pause to consider the value of the relationship, particularly when their companies are high performance workplaces.  Consider it guilt by association.  Most enterprises want to be gauged by the company that they keep and they willingly allow those firms with obvious shortcomings to become someone else`s problem.
(Send along your thoughts as well.)

If you self identify with some of these examples, stop looking at the issue as one of  `C`for confrontation.  Rather, change the meaning `C` for constructive criticism.  See the situation for what it is, an opportunity for improvement and not as an obstacle to be avoided. 

Everyone - not the least, yourself -  benefits from your willingness to see the difference!


1 comment:

  1. Brilliant Jim. You hit the nail on the head with this one!