Friday, October 29, 2010

A Four...Almost Five-Year-Old's View of Life

As I write this blog entry I’m sitting on a flight headed to PHX. Doesn’t sound too different than normal, does it? This is a very special trip. My youngest son Jackson is sitting beside me. If you were to ask him his age he’d tell you he’s 4 and will be 5 in a few days. He’s proud of that fact.

On the way to the airport we dropped the car off at an offsite location and took a shuttle in. We sat down and he reminded me that I needed to wear a seatbelt. That’s funny because I don’t remember the busses having seatbelts. I had never noticed that before.

While we were riding in the bus he pointed out all the different offsite parking shuttle busses to me. “Look! That one’s black with yellow spots! Look! That one’s yellow with black spots!” I had never noticed all the different colors of shuttle busses. I knew they were there, but not at that level.

When we arrived into the airport he yelled, “Daddy, we’re going into door 2!” Every time I get to the airport I never look at the door number I enter. “Daddy, this side is different.”

“That’s right.” I said. “It’s red on this side and you’re used to the blue side. “

I must say that each of us get lulled to sleep day after day and miss the details, the extraordinary, and incredible opportunities. We’ve driven the same route to work, went to the same lunch spot, visited the same websites, and on and on and on. We’re left finding very little variety in our day-to-day existence.

It reminds me of Jim Carrey’s character in the movie Yes Man. He lived a very similar life where everything was predictable, ordinary, and lifeless. Later in the movie he chooses to start saying, “Yes” to every opportunity presented to him and finds how exhilarating life can be.

Why do we allow ourselves to get into these mundane routines? Is it because we’re afraid to get out and do something different? Are we intimidated at the thought of tackling hard, challenging things? Or maybe it’s because we live in a culture whose heart is set on comfort and convenience? What is holding you back?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

To Terminate or Not to Terminate - That is the Question

Did you see the movie Up In the Air? My wife and I saw it when it came to the theaters last year. She wasn’t a big fan but I enjoyed it. If you haven’t seen said movie, I’ll break it down for you real quick. The main character, Ryan Bingham (George Clooney), works for a company which is sourced to terminate people when their bosses don’t have the guts to do the dirty work. In the movie, you get to see him terminate many people and the plethora of different reactions.

Unfortunately in the movie you see “leaders” who don’t have the courage or commitment to their teams to make the tough decisions. What happens when there are people on a team that are not pulling their own weight, don’t fit into the culture, or are just plain weak performers? The reality is that the rest of the people typically figure this out well before the leader does. If the right people are terminated, the team should never be surprised.

When the leader figures out they’ve got a bigger or painstakingly repetitive problem with an employee they have a decision to make.

1. Try to assist that employee through consistent performance discussions and purposeful development.

2. Do nothing.

3. Terminate them.

Unfortunately what happens is usually 1 or 2 and the leader sacrifices some of their leadership equity resulting in losing the respect of their team. Valuable employees today don’t have a lot of patience and typically want to do well. When they feel they are being held back due to the performance of the person next to them, they typically want them “kicked off the island”.

Earlier this year my lead team and I made the decision to terminate a few people. Once we made the decision, we began mapping out our strategy to backfill the roles and ultimately upgrade our staff. Now, we didn’t just meet and then turnaround and start terminating people. We made good decisions regarding process, ideal vs. acceptable timing, and how we would backfill their rolls. In a matter of six weeks all the targeted employees were gone and we had already backfilled one with a second one a week later.

The results were astounding. The remaining employees were not shocked AND were motivated even more. Yeah, yeah, you think it was because of fear. Good guess…but wrong. What they were motivated by was the fact that they got to see again how inspired my leaders and I were by the compelling vision of the future for growth and development. After only a week, one of my employees said, “I can’t even tell you how different our team feels now. It’s amazing. I love it!” We haven’t looked back since. Today, our team is more cohesive, focused, and driven than it has ever been.

What would have happened if I hadn’t terminated anyone? My employees would have less respect for me and our growth wouldn’t be at the same pace. The team’s motivation would be far lower, and I think it’s safe to say both our internal and external customers would be less satisfied.

So ask yourself, “Who do I need to terminate?” I can guarantee there’s someone on your team that needs to go, but you continue to chicken out. Take a shot of courage and let it rip. You’ll be glad you did…and so will your team.