Success According to Karl

The broader impact of performance management…

The ability to make good decisions regarding people represents one of the last reliable sources of competitive advantage, since very few organizations are any good at it.”

— Peter Drucker

Two senior managers are competing for a coveted job or responsibility. Both have solid, well-known B-school credentials, blue-chip resumes, and social/personal skills that make them a real pleasure to be around. On their staffs, one of them has one A-player, a couple of B-players, and the rest Cs. The other has a handful of A-players, 2-3 B’s, and no Cs.

Who wins?? The answer is simple, isn’t it…? Hiring and firing well, though not for the faint at heart, are at the center of every successful executive and organization.

Hiring Well

When hiring. determine what an “A” player looks like for you and your firm, and don’t settle for anything less than that. If you are diligent in that regard, the worst case is you end up with a high “B” employee, not some bottom-feeding loser.

If you can’t find any of those, simply do not hire. The cost of hiring poorly is so much greater than the cost of not filling any position, including those deadly sounding “lost opportunity” costs. If your candidate pool doesn’t offer up a hirable option, blow them all up and start again, versus picking the best of the bad. Remember, even if you got the pick of the litter, you still got a dog…

Develop a new-hire profile that outlines what the candidate must look like, including skills, knowledge, and proven ability, and then add in “characteristics.” It’s usually those characteristics that divide the good-looking from the good-performing.

Fire Well

This one is so much tougher since we feel some degree of failure for that employee’s substandard performance. Rightfully so.

Truthfully, however, we probably “hired” wrong more than we “managed” wrong. In staff development and evaluation, it pays to be critical and resolute; decide what performance is required, coach as necessary, even get them additional help… but at the end of the “period,” whatever that is, hold them personally and completely accountable for delivering – or not delivering – those results.

Then act accordingly. Even when it hurts. We’re a business, not a social services agency, and we can’t fix everyone.

The problem with keeping deadwood or sub-standard performers is that it does exactly the opposite of what you may think. The deadwood loves you; the sub-standard performing crowd calls you a friend.

Your superstars, however – those whom you are relying for the current and future success of the organization – see your lack of action as a direct slight to their abilities. You pay the sub-standard performer $XX dollars per year; you pay the superstar, hopefully, $XX+Y. You are screaming to your superstar that the sole difference between them and the deadwood is that small delta between the two of them.

And we wonder why they leave??

A story… I was recently at O’Hare, in the Hertz bus going from the terminal to the car lot. The driver, Karl Levi, was nothing short of outstanding. Those who travel frequently know that those shuttle bus drivers are frequently… well, “less” than outstanding. I struck up a conversation with Karl (easy to do – he’s a “talker”).Hertz-bus-at-ohare

Karl had been with Hertz for 18 years. Folks, that’s a long time for a job that historically has high turnover. Since he was obviously good at his trade, I asked him why he stayed with Hertz all these years. His reply? Three things: (1) “They take care of me – they appreciate and recognize my work;” (2) “They are good people; those in charge seem to care;” and (3) “They don’t put up with poor performers.”

Think of the significance; this guy has been there 18 years, known me for about 3 minutes, and is responding to a reasonably personal question. One of his three reasons — over 18 years of employment — is that they don’t tolerate poor performers.

Thanks, Karl.

Be Brazen.

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