Times were pretty tough at home and we were struggling to make ends meet. We cut back as much as we could and ultimately the only thing that was draining the family resources were the children…they were an expense and we had to continue to make sacrifices if ever we were going to make it. Besides, they weren’t doing all that well at school and would only continue to be a drain on us as a family so we told ourselves it was for the best. Could you imagine the heart-ache and pain associated with giving up your own children?
For most of us in the western world this is never something we would ever have to experience. In fact, no matter how tough things get, we would never even consider giving up our children – it would never even be an option for us. If they weren’t performing well at school we’d give them as much time as they needed to get back on their feet. If they were fighting with their friends or siblings we might even sit down with them and coach them to a better way of communicating or we may even look to understand what’s driving a change in their behaviour but we’d never consider getting rid of them. Surely that should be the same for how we treat our employees.
If they rely on us for their livelihood don’t we have a social responsibility to help them provide for themselves and their families? If they aren’t performing, rather than manage them out, can’t we provide the support they need to start meeting expectations again? If they tend to rub people up the wrong way, aren’t there insights we can share with them to help them better understand their communication style and the impact it’s having on others. Surely, just like our children, if an employee is unhappy we would spend some time with them and give them the support they need to pull them through. “But coach”, I hear you say, “you’re living in a dream world…someone who’s not performing will impact on the bottom line”. I would argue that it’s less expensive to provide the necessary support and help them to get back on track than it is to manage them out or pay them off. So why don’t we do it?
If, as a leader, I don’t have the skills to help raise the performance of an under-performing employee I’m either going to take direct action to move them on or not deal with the issue. If the common response from Best Places to Work surveys for the question, ‘Poor performance is dealt with effectively within this organisation’, is anything to go by it’s a clear indication that the latter option is the most prevalent.
Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish. ~ Sam Walton
I was watching a talk by Simon Sinek that prompted me to write this article and in it he shares the example of a company called Next Jump. Charlie Kim, the CEO of Next Jump, has a no fire policy! If they hire you and you’re not performing they will get you the necessary support and coaching to bring you to the level you need to be at.
Taking the point of employee support even further, another company mentioned by Sinek in this talk is Barry-Wehmiller, a manufacturing company that was hit quite hard in the 2008 recession. The company lost 30% of its orders overnight which was crippling them. Recognising the need to save $10m, the board immediately suggested lay-offs – “it’s the only way”, they said. But the CEO, Bob Chapman, wouldn’t have any of it. When he talked about Barry-Wehmiller as being a family he meant every word of it and so he came up with another solution. Every employee, from receptionist to CEO, would have to take 4 weeks of unpaid leave over the course of the year. “It’s better we all suffer a little than some suffer a lot”, he said. Employees didn’t have to take their unpaid leave consecutively and they could choose when they would take it. What happened then was those employees who needed money less, took 5 weeks leave which enabled others to take 3 weeks, etc. By taking this approach Barry-Wehmiller saved $20m.
Cutting jobs isn’t always the best way to save a struggling company and leaving poor performance uncorrected isn’t the best way of running a successful company either. If we had the courage to think a little more like Bob Chapman and we provided the right skill-set for our leaders (or used external coaches as required) to address a performance shortfall like Charlie Kim what kind of message would that send to the rest of the organisation? What kind of culture do you think it would create? Even if you embraced this kind of thinking at your own team level, what kind of impression would this leave on your team?
If you’d like to know more about how to coach a poor performing team member back to expected levels, or if you’d like to explore how coaching can help you become a better leader, or even if you’re just generally curious about what professional coaching can offer you, please contact us at any time for a free consultation.