What if you showed up for work to find a new sign posted by the owners: “Keep the best, churn the rest”—and you knew the best, and the rest meant you and your colleagues at all levels? Chances are, it’d get your attention. And that’s exactly what business owners Dick and Harry (made up names for a true illustration) had in mind when they posted that sign at their medium-sized company.
To read the rest of this article from the Houston Business Journal, see: Fixing your business? Start at the top with managers http://www.bizjournals.com/houston/stories/2007/10/29/smallb5.html
Dick and Harry had allowed their company to drift into unprofitability. Though they brought in more business, profits never increased. And the more jobs they took on, the crazier their lives became. They were so exhausted trying to stay afloat, they didn’t have time to plan how to get out of the mess—until a stress-induced fight finally forced them to stop and think. It was change or lose the business.
They realized they had a lackadaisical staff, lackadaisically managed, producing minimally. The big problem was their poor leadership. Dick and Harry had let their standards slide. They’d stopped being leaders and had become conflict-avoidant fixers.
They complained whenever something was done wrong, but they fixed it themselves. They worked harder and dumber. No one was re-trained or fired. They never stopped bullies. The result? The more business that came in, the worse their quality and the more profit gushed out of their pipeline.
The more frantic they had become, the less they enforced behavioral standards. Over time, narcissism, cranky complaining, criticism, whining, demanding, bullying, emotional drama, back-stabbing, sabotage, negativity, hostility, cliques, cyberbullying, personal vendettas, turf fights, entitlement, claims of unhappiness and poor morale, control-freaks, toxic nastiness, gossip, disruptive actions and lying increased. These behaviors are the typical signs of problems.
When standards slid, the best people left because they got tired of being forced to work with jerks who prevented success. And they hated being paid the same as jerks.
To let their staff know that there would be a new culture of high performance and accountability, they started an internal campaign: “Keep the best, churn the rest.” To show that wasn’t a punitive exercise or mass downsizing, the slogan meant four things:
- They began at the top. If they didn’t perform, they’d leave because they weren’t worthy of leading the company.
- Fixing managerial problems was urgent because problems at the top cost more. One problem manager caused more damage than one problem employee.
- “Keep” meant increasing rewards because each quality worker is worth more than two jerks.
- “The best” meant competent, productive employees, not just shooting stars.
Although Dick and Harry needed to reward good performers, they also needed to demand high quality and accountability at all levels. That meant honest evaluations, with rewards and consequences. They knew they had to stop bullying.
Dick and Harry didn’t expect a quick fix. And there wasn’t one. During the next 18 months, they turned over about 35 percent of their staff, including managers. But they stuck to their plan. They walked the walk and talked the talk.
The company turned around. The more they kept the best, the easier it became to churn the rest. At all levels, unmotivated or incompetent people were gone.
High standards protect everyone from unprofessional behavior. Learn what you can do to eliminate the high cost of low attitudes, behavior and performance.