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Do you have the right people working for you?

October 08, 2008
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I’d like to start by quoting David Packard, co-founder of Hewlett-Packard Company:

“No company can grow revenues consistently faster than its ability to get enough of the right people to implement that growth and still become a great company.”

“If your growth rate in revenues consistently out paces your growth rate in people you simply can not, in deed you can not, build a great company.”

Those who build great companies understand that the ultimate throttle on growth, for any great company, is not markets, technology, competition, or products. It is the ability to recruit and keep enough good employees.

You will notice that a huge part of your success will be attributed to your discipline in picking the right people as employees.

If you are really tired of trying to find the exact right person to fill a position within your organization then it is important that you first and foremost recognize that compromising is not an option. You can’t just hire just anyone off the street in order to get through a crunch time. You must find another way to get through it until you find the right person for that position.

Finding the right person

The moment you feel the need to tightly manage someone you have likely made a hiring mistake.

The best people don’t need to be managed, don’t need to be disciplined, and certainly don’t need to be motivated. Guided, taught, led? Yes! But not tightly managed.

We have all experienced or observed this scenario:

We have the wrong employee working for us and we know it. Yet we wait. We delay. We try alternatives. We give a third and fourth chance. We hope that the situation will improve. We invest time in trying to properly manage that person. We build little systems to compensate for his or her shortcomings, and so forth.

But, the situation doesn’t improve. When we go home after a hard day work we find our energy diverted by thinking or talking with our spouses about that person. Worse, all that time and energy we spend on that one person siphons energy away from developing and working with all the right people. We continue to stumble along until that person leaves on their own, to our great sense of relief, or we finally act!

Meanwhile, our best employees are thinking “What took you so long?” Letting the wrong people hang around is unfair to all the right people in you organization. The right people find themselves compensating for the inadequacies of the wrong people. Worse, it can drive away your best people.

Strong performers are fundamentally motivated by performance and when they see their efforts impeded by carrying extra weight, they become frustrated. Waiting too long before acting is equally unfair to the people who need to go. For every day you allow that person to continue working for you when you know that person will not make it in the end, you are stealing in the worst way. You are stealing a portion of that person’s life. Time that he or she can spend finding a better place where they can flourish.

Indeed, if we are honest with ourselves, the reason we wait too long often has less to do with concern with that person and more to do with our own convenience. “He’s doing an okay job and it will be a hassle to replace him.” So we avoid the issue. And because we find the whole idea of dealing with it stressful or distasteful, we wait.

Meanwhile, all the best people are still wondering, “When are they going to do something about this?” “How long is this going to go on?” When looking for the right person, don’t pursue an expedient, “try-a-lot-people-and-keep-who-works” model of management.

Instead, adopt this approach…

Take the time to make rigorous, A-Plus selections right-up-front. If you get it right, do everything you can to keep them on board for a long time. If you make a mistake, and you will certainly make mistakes, then confront that fact and make a move so that you can get on with your work and they can get on with their lives.

Sometimes you may feel as if you may have made a hiring mistake if the person is not performing up to expectations in their position. Don’t rush to judgment. Invest in the time to determine whether or not you have that person in the wrong position within your organization rather than the wrong person all together.

If you think that you may have hired the wrong person, ask yourself, “I may have him in the wrong position and his performance may improve if I place him in a position that is well suited for him.”

Every minute devoted to placing the proper person in the proper position is worth weeks, even months, later. I call it placing square pegs in square holes and round pegs in round holes.

Instead of firing honest and able people who are not performing well it is important to try to move them once or even two or three times to other positions where they might blossom.

But, how do you know when you know?

Two key questions can help.

1.) Treat the matter as a hiring decision, rather than a firing decision. Ask yourself, if you were interviewing this person all over again, would you give him the job?

2.) Imagine the situation in reverse. If the person came in to tell you that he or she was leaving your company to pursue an exciting and new opportunity elsewhere, would you feel terribly disappointed? Or, secretly relieved?

It may take some time to determine whether a person is in the wrong position or he needs to leave your organization all together. Nonetheless, when you finally realize that you need to make a people change, act.

David J. Mazzarella is the president and CEO of Mazzarella Car Care Systems, LLC

(MCCS). MCCS is a privately held company involved in manufacturing and marketing

automobile appearance products to the car care industry and auto enthusiasts. Mazzarella can be reached by e-mail at djm@MazzarellaCarCare.com.