Just this week I heard two leaders of two different organizations, one the senior vice president of a manufacturing firm and the other an executive director of a large non-profit organization, complain about bad apples. Both bad apples work directly for the people talking to me. In other words, my conversation partners were talking about bad apples who worked for them and who’ve been undermining them for quite a while.
Why in the world do these otherwise good, well intentioned leaders put up with chronically bad behavior that’s hurtful to others, depresses productivity, sucks the wind out of morale and wrecks an otherwise good day? This stuff just kills all three phases of strategy: formulation, implementation and execution
What do these leaders think they gain by putting up with these tantrums and outbursts?
Robert Sutton summarizes the eye-opening costs of these misfit personality problems. See “How a Few Bad Apples Ruin Everything,” Wall Street Journal, October 23, 2011.
Here are few guidelines from Piloting Strategy about how to minimize your own agonizing and complaining time and re-kindle organizational morale.
1.) Take Your Values Seriously. Without your values as a standard, all behaviors can eventually be rationalized. Individuals who do not support and live up to your values must leave immediately. There is no room for rationalization here.
2.) Values Trump Talent. No matter how good a “star performing” bad apple may be, his or her cost to overall productivity is not worth it. If you’re in doubt, re-read your values. If you’re still not convinced, re-read Sutton.
3.) Know Your Blind Spots. We all have them, particularly where people and personalities are concerned. Even a top performer who’s a virtuoso at what you’re not can be replaced and should be.
4.) Separate People from Positions. Temporarily remove the bad apple from your thoughts. Take a cold analytic look at the position description and what performance the job requires. Tally up pluses and minuses. To the minus column add the primary, secondary and tertiary effects this person is costing your enterprise. Now re-insert your bad apple in your thinking and ask yourself if this person is worth all that
5.) Keep it Short. Most leaders know they have a bad apple long before they move on that intuition. I have heard one rule of thumb that says it takes a leader six months to confront the reality he or she has a bad apple and then six more months to do something about it. In the interim everyone suffers. Go through the first four steps quickly. Then follow the fact pattern you’ve created.
Morale, productivity, spirits and your mood will improve almost immediately. You’re bad apple may be relieved too.
To learn more about how to align people with positions, go to www.pilotingstrategy.com .