This is a story about a people manager that works in your business. Let's call this person "Alex" for the purposes of this story.
Alex (delete as appropriate):
a) has worked in your business forever
b) is a close friend of your partner
c) is the key contact for your biggest client
d) knows where the bodies are buried
e) started in a lower role, showed promise and drifted in new roles as the company grew
Once upon a time Alex was doing well, so you gave them a team. They didn’t get off to a great start, but you were busy at the time, and didn’t have the time to deal with it. Before you knew it, many years had passed. If you're being honest, Alex probably gets worse each year now.
Because Alex doesn't model great behaviour they don't have a great recruitment success rate. This leads to a high number of people leaving or being made to leave in probation. It wastes a lot of time and is costs the business a lot of money. But not everyone is great at recruitment, so no action needed.
There are no real shining stars in the team, no one manages to make it out of Alex's team once they are in it. Alex has no idea how to create a great environment for working and for talent to thrive, they just seem to muddle along. Sickness levels do seem to be a bit higher in that team too, but it isn’t that much worse than other teams, so no action needed.
Alex likes banter. You’ve heard a couple of things second hand, but again you’re too busy to do anything about it, they aren’t a screaming problem at the moment. No grievance received, so no action needed.
Alex's customer stats are ok. The clients Alex manages are stable, but Alex doesn't really achieve any up-sell or create any new opportunities from their client base. But they haven’t lost any clients, so no action needed.
Alex's name has come up a couple of times in exit interviews, but you’ve never had a grievance about them from leavers and not everyone can get along, so no action needed.
Others in the leadership team are visibility frustrated working with Alex. There’s tension but that’s normal in a senior team under pressure right? Sadly one of your highest potential leaders has decided to leave. You don’t think there’s a link though, so no action needed.
But now its crunch time - the business is growing up.
Now you’re having to make some different and difficult decisions about the future of the business. You need your leadership team on board to help push this change through. But Alex messed up the message and now you’ve had a load of emails directly from employees to deal with. Classic Alex cock up, but not the end of the world, so no action needed.
Remember, Alex (delete as appropriate):
a) has worked in your business for 1 million years
b) has been there since the beginning
c) is a close friend of your partner
d) is the key contact for your biggest client
e) knows where the bodies are buried (delete as appropriate)
f) started in a lower role, showed promise and got promoted a few times
... so it isn’t that bad. Deal with it later.
How does this make you feel as the owner of a business, or as an effective leader in the business?
The impact of a poor leader in your business can be really damaging. Other employees may see Alex's mediocrity or poor approach being acceptable in your business. If you settle for this level of mediocrity, you’ll have to settle for mediocre outcomes.
So what should you do?
You need to confront this head on. And you need to do it now. There are to many amber warnings going on here and ultimately your business might not be suffering, but it probably isn't realising its true potential either.
Here’s some ideas of how to get this started:
- Firstly you need to make it clear to Alex that it isn’t acceptable anymore
- Gather your facts and prepare for a challenging conversation
- Invite Alex to your meeting, do it properly, so they know it’s not just a quick catch up
- Have an exploratory conversation with them. What’s going on? How can you support? How can you turn it around? What do they need?
- Put in place your agreed support actions - do not forget or skip this part
- Set clear expectations and timescales for review. Be fair, be supportive, be clear.
- Be brave about moving from informal to formal processes if you aren’t seeing the change you need. Don’t cruise at this stage either
- Make great notes & keep great records
Here’s that line again, in case you still need convincing, if you settle for mediocre leadership, you’ll have to settle for mediocre outcomes.
Take this out of the “too hard” box and demonstrate that you’re also a great leader by tackling this and not accepting this level of mediocrity.
If you need help raising the game of your leadership team,Ten Space can help. email@example.com