1 Leadership Key That We Never Discuss

By Kevin on July 6, 2015 in employee engagement, leadership

When I suggested that the best way to deal with that lone disengaged employee is usually to fire them (in my video “How to Deal with a Disengaged Employee”) I received a lot of emails, both from people supporting my position and those thinking I was being a bit harsh.

One of the most thoughtful messages I received came from leadership coach, Jim Trunick, who has long been a great friend and personal mentor. While conceding my point, Jim sagely suggested that I left out an important thought. Even when we must terminate, we must do it in a way that preserves that person’s dignity. I thought that was such an important lesson, that I asked Jim to write a guest post. I think you’ll find his insights below very helpful.

The #1 Key To Leadership That Is Never Discussed

So, most of your team is engaged, achieving, growing and doing the job, but not everyone. This one outlier is less engaged and not performing. After your best coaching, begging, cajoling, manipulation and leverage–you are the one losing sleep, and they are still getting paid.

So, it’s time for them to leave! Maybe. But first, ask yourself a couple questions.

1) Am I getting emotional about this person / issue / performance?

2) Could one of my peers, manage this employee more successfully than I am?

If after pausing to think through these questions, I still believe this person is not engaged, working or “getting it”, and that my peers would see it the same way…they need to leave.

And how we help someone exit our organization–defines our leadership. We are defining ourselves, our leaders and teams, through our leadership of how we assist employees leave organizations.

Understand Their Mindset

Low performers know they are not successful or happy long before we do. They are losing sleep, grinding teeth, frustrated to the point of work sabotage and victim thinking. Our teams know their teammate is struggling in even more detailed ways, than we understand. So, our struggling employee is already mentally and emotionally dis-engaging. We are the last to know. We need to simply further the conversation they are having in their mind and at home.

Change Your Mindset

We need to shift our thinking from “they have to go” to “they will be wildly successful somewhere else.”  Now we are beginning to condition our thinking, emotions, and body language to assist them, not hurt them. You may begin to feel better about this whole situation. It is our emotional strength, that has gained us so much success with customers, coaching, perceptiveness, adaptability, and these emotions in dismissing employees can be fatal to our leadership.

Be The Mirror Less The Jury

We need to get the emotion out and the dignity in. When we review their activities and priorities with them, we ask them to “describe for me… , “share with me…”, “help me understand…” so they begin to realize the same things we know.

It’s all good–as they begin to realize–they aren’t happy. And the struggles they have today are nothing to the next few months, as pressures and expectations will accelerate! And that is not good for anyone. In a job or role, we all apply so much time, effort and money…to not be progressing is maddening. And we see it in ourselves and others, and can be a downward spiral, leading to–well not a good place.

Shaping the conversation, for areas they do enjoy and have excelled, looks like an interview, and that becomes good coaching. Build trust, learn motivations, and clarifying expectations within themselves, is critical to their learning. Our job is to help our people grow and become the best them, they can be. They need to believe their greater success is in another role. We have a leader’s responsibility to help them grow–it just might not be here.

What If They Don’t Get It?

They need to clearly know the situation. “Decisions for your career plans are in your control, today. And soon I may need to have some control as to your career decisions in this organization.”  These conversations are nearly impossible if they don’t trust us. If the content of our message regarding their performance is not aligned with our intent for them to be successful, all our words and effort mean nothing. In every way your work with them, your conversation with them, needs to be an exercise for their career benefit, and happiness at new work and at home.


Jim Trunick is the author of The CORE of Leadership. For more information about his workshops, coaching and keynote speeches visit www.JimTrunick.com.

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