By Susan Schilke; June 1, 2022
TeamStrength members deeply value their team, and finding, hiring and retaining the best has always been a key focus. Lately even more so. In our workshop this summer, we’re excited to feature the retention expert Dick Finnegan to learn more about keeping great team members for the long term.
And as I reflect on 30 years of amazing advice and insights, I realize one of the most repeated pieces of feedback members have offered over the years is just the opposite. Sometimes, the best way to build a strong team, members share, is to remove the players who don’t fit.
Members don’t offer the advice casually, because they all know how tough it is to part ways with a team member. And issues that make it to their TeamStrength groups are the most painful people issues. A long-term, once valuable person who no longer contributes the way they once did. A leader who has lost the faith and trust of their team. A high performer who creates tension and stress throughout the workplace. A great person who is giving their best but has been promoted to a position they just don’t have the experience or ability to master fast enough.
Issues about key team members have been a mainstay of meetings for all three decades. The CEO and Key Exec members truly care about their people, and when faced with challenges about a key person, they look for every other solution first. The options they offer are always aimed at finding a way to move past the current issues positively. Sometimes separation is the most positive outcome for all.
As my friend and colleague Carol Hull puts it, “Every day you keep someone in a role they’re not suited for, you steal a day of their life.” But it’s never easy.
In one of the first issues about a key employee (circa 1993), the presenting member had no option for parting ways, and in fact included “Termination is not an option” in the blueprint. Members respectfully offered some tough love. One said, “Not only is termination an option, it’s the only option.” And it ended up being the path the CEO took within 30 days.
Another time, a member was having huge issues with a division leader whose wife was facing a terminal illness. How could you possibly fire someone in that situation? The group struggled, and again members advised to part ways, while offering suggestions to be generous and caring – in fact, one option was to send the couple on a long trip to enjoy their remaining time together.
The two hardest scenarios have played out repeatedly in TeamStrength member companies. The long-term, hard-working team member the company outgrows or overpromotes. And the high-performing team member who doesn’t live the company values. The first is always very difficult for members, and alternate approaches are explored fully before making the tough decision to let them go. The other situation – a performer who violates culture – that’s ultimately easier once members get perspective from their group. It is also the inspiration for this phrase:
Sometimes you have to shoot a dog in public
When you take out a high-performer for values issues, you prove your commitment to truly living them – they’re not just words. You show you won’t compromise values for money. And you want the team to know what you’re doing and why.
While the focus in today’s world is tilted to recruiting and retention because of the tight labor market, remember words of wisdom from TeamStrength members over the years. “You have to get the wrong people off the bus before you can get the right people on.” And ultimately, you owe it to your best performers and team members to fill the seats with people like them.