Baseball was my sport when I was a kid. I played second base. In fact, the Cleveland Indians scouted me.
I’ll never forget the scout, a guy named Joe. Joe had to be 60, if he was a day. He wore a tattered ball cap that he should have retired years earlier. Suspenders held up his pants that surrounded a round and sizable belly. He chewed Beech-Nut tobacco and the juice ran down both corners of his mouth.
He said to me, “Ron, there’s not a pitcher you can’t hit. No one can hit a ball past you, but…you can’t run. Even in the minor leagues on a base hit, they might throw you out at first base from right field.” The rest, as they say, is history. No baseball career. Instead college, military, college, business.
My point is that, even if I had gotten a job in baseball, they ultimately would have cut me. Why? Although I had two out of the three basic skills required to play the game, I lacked the ‘complete package.’ I would have hindered the team’s performance.
In professional baseball, they fire the bottom 10% every year.
In all the businesses I have owned, I have always detested firing people, even cheats and liars. I knew it would have a devastating effect on their families. Fortunately, due to my hiring process, I rarely have had to fire anyone.
I would be willing to wager that the bottom 10% of your organization is performing below standards, (provided you have a written and a quantifiable method of measurement) and that they are indeed blocking your growth and profitability.
You need to cut them loose.
It’s not that they’re bad folks. But the job may not be a fit or they may lack the ‘complete package’ to perform at a higher level. By firing your bottom 10%, you remove the environment that hinders your top performers.
If firing someone is as painful for you as it was for me, think about how much keeping that person employed with your organization is costing you and your team.
- They suck up management time and energy.
Constantly monitoring low performers and coaxing them into doing what you already pay them to do is not an effective use of a manager’s time. Instead, managers should focus on implementing the goals and objectives of their company using a reliable, motivated, and competent workforce. Low performers pollute the environment that allows highly motivated employees to thrive.
- They reduce your company’s profitability.
No one profits when you pay for ineffectiveness and weak performance—no one! Excellence, quality, and following clearly defined standards are the only things that contribute to growth and profitability. All else is detrimental. This also applies to your vendors and anyone else you pay.
- They cause other team members to take up the slack.
Low performing employees repeatedly fall short in completing their share of the work, or they fail to do it correctly. Your high achievers instinctively take up the slack, increasing their responsibilities, often at the expense of their own work. When your high achievers are overworked and overwhelmed, it can negatively affect their productivity and morale…and ultimately your company’s bottom line. Furthermore, if your company tolerates poor performance, you can kiss your high achievers goodbye. They have no incentive to stick around.
- They breed negativity and spread incompetence, especially with your customers.
Even if poor performers never have face-time with your customers, the effects of their mediocrity can still be devastating. Your acceptance of their low-level performance makes other employees believe there are no consequences for slacking off. As the quality of your products and services suffer and as your profits drop off (and they will if you take no action), your customers experience the impact of the employee’s incompetence. You now have limited resources to invest in serving your customers.
- Their skills no longer meet your company’s core standards.
Years ago, I had an administrative assistant to whom I gave a research assignment. She knocked herself out, even spending her own time to do the research and create the reports and documentation I asked for. She presented it to me on time and with a huge smile on her face. She obviously was very proud of what she had done. It turned out that when I tested the data and information she delivered, it was useless. My first inclination was to blame myself. Was I specific enough? Was I clear? Did I describe the project in a way that she couldn’t get wrong? Even though I paid for a second attempt, she simply didn’t have the skills I thought she had. However, (and this is important), she did what she was capable of doing.
I am a staunch believer in giving people the benefit of the doubt, in training and in charity. But financing mediocrity and a lack of ability is not a part of that. There’s a rule—if you choose to subsidize ‘something for nothing’, you pay the consequences in wasted time and money.
Replace Under-Performers with Achievers
Replace an under-performer with an achiever, and do all you can to guide the departing person to a better career track. After all, if you don’t enforce high performance standards and compliance in your organization, don’t be surprised if it negatively affects your growth and profitability.
If you terminated everyone who works for you today, would you rehire every one of them? Or would you selectively make some cuts to get more talent? Yeah…I thought so.
When you set and enforce standards in your organization, everyone benefits. Your team members benefit from the discipline. Your organization benefits from the growth and profitability. You get the ‘complete package’…
…And your customers do too!
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