A Story of Poor Leadership

If you have been in almost any type of management or leadership position, you have likely said or heard another leader say the following about an employee. “They don’t want to be here”, “They are so lazy” or the nails-on-a-chalkboard worst “I shouldn’t have hired them”. Early in my career as a leader, I had some of these same thoughts.

Thankfully I learned all at once these are just excuses for poor leadership.

I had an employee who was consistently underperforming. In spite of multiple warnings and written warnings his performance hadn’t improved. Finally I moved through the HR process and submitted a request for termination. About the time I submitted the request for termination this employee came to me on a Monday morning and said “I realized this weekend that I would be foolish to not take advantage of the opportunity to be on this team and work for this company.” I had heard similar affirmations before so I didn’t believe this was any different. But over the next few weeks something amazing happened. This employee was more committed than ever before, and as a result was working harder and getting better results than he ever had. You can imagine how excited I was for him, and my team. But reality set in, and my request for termination was approved. I was told that since the request had been approved, the termination had to take place. I was surprised when my boss had me join him in his office to deliver the news to this employee that we were letting him go on the grounds of poor performance. We collected his belongings and walked him out of the building.

I had two career altering  learning moments from this experience.

First, I learned that when people connect what they do each day to a bigger picture, they are often unstoppable. This employee had connected his daily tasks, his job, to some vision for himself in the future. I didn’t know at the time what that vision was or how he saw it fit, but I’m confident it had little to do with team or organizational goals and more with who he wanted to become, and what he wanted to accomplish in the coming months and years of his life.

Second, I learned that when making that critical decision to terminate someone, a leader should be very confident that they have done all they can do. In that moment where I sat across the table and watched this man lose his job at my request, all I could hear in my mind was “you didn’t do all you could to help him succeed”. While I did send emails, set expectations and have “hard conversations”, I didn’t spend enough time sitting with him to understand how he worked, practicing with him to fine tune his craft, or spending enough time helping him learn to be more efficient and effective by demonstration. Worst of all, I didn’t take the time to understand what motivated him and how I could connect what he does on a daily basis to that vision.

Think about those who work for you, what gets them through the door in the morning? What do they see for themselves in 2, 5 or 10 years? How do the tasks you ask them to accomplish each day contribute to that vision they hold for themselves? How are you helping them to succeed? Are you committing adequate time to coaching, demonstrating efficient methods to complete critical tasks and facilitating successful experiences?

If you find the right answers to these questions, you are well on your way to helping your team realize success you have never imagined.

Greer Method Complete Coaching provides one on one coaching for executives and business owners. Through expert coaches, habit locking technology, and proven processes we help leaders create, manage, and sustain personal and professional performance.

Jared J. Greer is the founder of Greer Method Complete Coaching. He is an executive coach, 6-time Ironman finisher, marathoner, ultra-marathoner, husband, and father of four.

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