There’s this weird dichotomy in our culture. Some leaders say things like, “Everyone in your organization is replaceable; even upgradable.” or “Don’t think for a second that person can’t be replaced in an instant with someone better who actually wants to do the work.” Others behave as if they should hand over the keys to the kingdom to their employees because they’re afraid of losing key players. So which is it? Are people replaceable or do we need to avoid turnover at all costs?
It’s both. On one hand, hiring the right people is critical to a businesses’ success. Whoever makes the first impression at your company or organization can make or break your success. On the other hand, sanctioned incompetence, where under qualified, under trained, or employees with poor attitudes or energy are allowed to stay on the proverbial bus when they should be released, is equally destructive.
The solution is found in hiring the right people, training them properly, continually investing in them, having high but realistic expectations, and leading with enough resolve that people know they must perform and behave with excellence in order to have the privilege to stay on your team.
Several months ago, cash flow was tighter than I liked in my office so I made a quick, irrational, knee-jerk reaction which could have completely derailed me. First, I let my assistant go. She was critical in freeing up my time and energy, which allowed me to perform and produce. I felt having her assistance was a luxury, so I released her “due to budget cuts”. It wasn’t an easy decision. In fact, I went through a considerable amount of turmoil over it. But, I did what I felt was necessary at the time.
Then, in an attempt to not lay anyone else off, I threw explosives into the morale on my team by cutting everyone’s pay. I should qualify this by staying I took at 30% pay cut before I touched anyone else’s pay or positions, which is what an effective leader should do. It’s not their fault we were in the situation. However, I explained to them that I wanted to do everything in my power to keep everyone else employed, and in order to do so, I needed to cut everyone’s pay. While they were all somewhat understanding, you could feel for weeks how deflated everyone was.
After some time, I looked back at the situation and realized both of my decisions were faulty. Both decision created more work for me, which distracted me from my mission-critical tasks. What’s worse, both decisions affected people who are very important to me and to the success of my practice and company. Energy was depleted. Time was wasted. And in spite of all my effort, it wasn’t until restored pay rates, hired more people, and, by the grace of God, hired my assistant back (who graciously obliged), that we really turned the corner.
I’m not suggesting you ignore budgets, spend more than you are able, or flippantly hire an over-qualified work force. I’m simply saying that the people you hire are the single greatest asset and when you have good help, it may be necessary to bite the bullet, pay them their wage, and hustle so your cause can move forward. Newton’s first law of motion essentially states that an object in motion will stay in motion. So one could argue that if an organization is in a growth phase, leaving it alone so it can continue to grow could be beneficial. Conversely, when growing, a massive change in culture, energy, attitude, morale, etc. could spiral an organization into decline. I’ll take the former, and even step on the gas to accomplish our mission even faster.
What are some decision you’ve made as a leader that had the opposite effect you intended to create?