Is this a leadership problem?


Hi, everybody, I’m Mike Staver. This is Mondays with Mike, a weekly video series where I answer questions from people just like you, and sometimes I involve my buddies, Johnny and Marty, who are always in the studio with me. They’re our crew. They do a great job. They do a really good job. Here we go.

“I have an employee that has been with the company for 10 years. Over the years, they have generally been a good employee. Lately, they’ve had several issues that have been causing issues with clients, to the point where I’m now getting emails from clients expressing their disappointment with not only them but the whole company. I usually think it’s either people, problem, or a systems problem, but could it be me, a leadership problem? Do I fire them, hire them, train them, or invest in their further development?”

It’s interesting. Here’s the thing I want to say to you. You say they’ve been with you for 10 years, they’ve generally been a good employee. “Lately” indicates that this has not been a chronic problem. “Lately, they’ve had several issues which have been causing them issues with clients,” issues with clients, not causing them issues with clients, “to the point where I’m now getting emails from clients expressing their disappointment with not only them, but the entire company.”

I love the fact that you were willing to say, “Is this a leadership problem?” That’s good, to take personal responsibility. At least they’re willing to look at it, but then you go onto say, “Do I fire them, hire them, train, or invest?” Well, I can tell you if they’re a 10-year employee and they generally did a good job, and only recently had they been failing, something else is going on. It’s very expensive to hire a 10-year person. This person probably knows where the bodies are buried, knows where everything’s going, whatever’s going on. I want you to make sure that you’re doing a good diagnosis. Great leaders diagnose well. Great leaders figure out what the thing is that’s causing this.

I would bring this person in, have a meaningful conversation, show them the emails, show them what’s happening. Don’t hold back, don’t pull any punches, be kind. Remember, great leaders investigate first, then they prescribe the solution. Right now, just because you’re getting letters or emails from clients, and they may be big clients, we don’t want to take it lightly, doesn’t mean that getting rid of her or him, whoever it is, him or her, you didn’t say– It doesn’t mean getting rid of him or her is going to solve the problem, because now, they’ll be asking questions about the company.

I think you look at the system first, which you already articulated. You look at your leadership. Are you being clear? Are the patterns to good customer service and good execution being clear to him or her? If he or she has got clarity and they know what they’re supposed to do and they’re not doing it, look what’s going on behind the curtain because whatever is going on behind the curtain is probably causing that. I’m always curious when there is a significant shift in a person’s behavior, whether it’s personally or professionally, because it can be a sign of something bigger. You guys think that’s accurate?

Johnny: 100% percent, yes.

Marty: I agree. I had a boss once say, “You can terminate, tolerate, or train.” I think that’s really good.

Mike: Oh, that’s good.

Marty: If you can’t tolerate it, you can terminate it. If you want to, you can train. I’m a huge fan of go and train first. You don’t want to get rid of good people.

Mike: Especially 10 years, right?

Johnny: Yes, that’s a huge time commitment.

Marty: On both parties.

Mike: We don’t know the unintended consequences of getting rid of a 10-year employee either. That could be a good thing. Well, I hope that’s helpful. Remember, look at the process first, which it looks like you are, the system they’re in. Look at your leadership. Are you being clear? Are you being accountable, and are you recognizing good behavior? If they are yeses to all those things, then I want you to move onto having a meaningful conversation and lay it out to him, he or she, so they get it. This is Mondays with Mike, I hope you like that.

Be courageous.


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