Culling the Herd

  1. March 13th, 2012  | 

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Published in Accountability

Someone on your payroll needs to go.

You know it, the people that work with this under-performer know it, and the under-performer probably knows it.

Ranchers call it “culling the herd,” the process of removing animals from a group based on specific criteria to reinforce certain desirable characteristics of the group. No problem. Happens every day.

In shows like American Idol and X Factor, about 10,000 people attend initial auditions with the dream of becoming a star. The 10,000 hopefuls are culled to 121 contestants then culled to 30 for the semifinal, where they’re culled again so that 10 top-performing contestants proceed to the finals. Judges and the viewing public cast their votes and the finalist with the fewest votes is culled from the competition until a new winner is crowned. No problem. Happens every season.

In sports, teams hold training camps for veterans, rookies and walk-ons with each player vying for a roster spot. In professional football, for example, the first cut reduces the team to a 75-man roster, the second cut to a 53-man roster. At the end of the season, teams decide – based on performance – who will stay and who must go. This cut can include coaches. And GMs. No problem. Happens every season…unless you’re the Dallas Cowboys.

What about culling the herd of under-performers in business?

It’s a big problem for many leaders.

It occurs when you realize you’ve got an under-performer on your payroll but delay having a tough conversation. When you finally address the issue, you feel better because you finally put the issue on the table. With clear expectations, the under-performer either improves, leaves on his own, or is terminated due his unwillingness or inability to perform. Once that happens, your colleagues ask, “What took you so long?”

How accountable are you?

In my work with CEOs and leadership teams of small- and mid-sized businesses, the reasons I hear for not addressing performance issues include:

  • The belief (hope, really) that the situation will improve
  • The emotional cost (to you, to them, to both) of confronting the issue
  • The under-performer is a family member or they’re “just like family” (see above)
  • Failure to set clear expectations

Have these issues hurt your business performance?

These issues and others that hinder performance are also addressed in my March 30 accountability workshop in Dallas. We have 10 seats left and registration closes this week, so get more info or register today. We’ll provide 7 action steps leaders can take to improve performance, including a 4-part formula that’s guaranteed to drive accountability.

Culling the herd

Whether you’re culling your herd, force-ranking your employees or maintaining a relentless focus on continuous improvement, the reality is that talent is the single best predictor of future success.

Most leaders have used the economic recession as an opportunity to upgrade talent and eliminate under-performers.

It’s likely, however, that some under-performers are still hanging around your organization and going through the motions. These laggards are missing deadlines, disappointing the high-performing colleagues who are depending on them, and causing you to send mixed signals that under-performance is tolerated.

It’s time for them to go.

As a leader, it’s up to you to make the tough decisions. Culling the herd is up to you. Saddle up.

About the Author: Greg Bustin advises some of the world’s most admired companies and leaders, and he’s dedicated a career to working with CEOs and the leadership teams of hundreds of companies in a range of industries. He’s facilitated more than 250 strategic planning sessions, he’s delivered more than 600 keynotes and workshops on every continent except Antarctica, and he coaches leaders who are inspired to take their career to the next level. His fourth leadership book— Accountability: The Key to Driving a High-Performance Culture (McGraw-Hill) —is a Soundview Executive Best Business Book.

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