Breaking up is hard to do – in relationships and especially in business. Most of us have been there: someone doing an important role in your business is failing; the needs of the business have outgrown his or her personal growth curve. But he or she is a really nice person or you have a deep history with that person and don’t want to betray the trust or loyalty he or she has shown you.
Why is it so hard to navigate conversations with someone who is underperforming? The crux of this problem is the need to be liked more than being respected. The desire for harmony over performance excellence often stems from this same affliction. When leaders are looking for external validation, they become susceptible to false logic and can come up with poor reasons to maintain loyalty from that person for the sake of being liked. The leader does this at the subjugation of truth, honor and building a true meritocracy. What’s worse is that other people see what’s happening and know that the leader is showing weakness rather than the necessary commitment to the company mission.
Problem solving this situation requires some courage, honest introspection and the discipline to re-commit to the company mission and purpose over personal feelings. What gives leaders the requisite moral authority is their dedication to the mission. Achieving your mission is what will create the greatest good for the world, your business, your team and all of the individuals involved. Practice the fortitude, self-confidence and personal commitment necessary to drive performance excellence over the need for harmony. What’s more is that there is an opportunity here to honor truth, wisdom and the personal loyalty they have earned. Treating a person with dignity and grace at the end of the relationship is the sign of a true leader.
Have honest conversations with the team member who is failing. Get him or her out of harm’s way. Stepping aside from the role they are struggling with may be the only way to support both the person’s individual growth and the growth of your company. The right or wrong leaders in the right or wrong roles will make the difference between creating and destroying value. Securing the right executive leader with both technical chops and culture fit will give you keys to the promised land.