Power Choices

Sarah was a great team member. She was always reliable, consistently on time, and really cared about our organization and clients. Sarah had been a manager of ours for over ten years. She was "loyal," and we felt that we should have that same loyalty to her. However, her performance was becoming an issue. She wasn't growing in her position or adapting to the company's changing needs.

My General Manager brought this subject to my attention a few months ago, and I did what most company leaders would have done. I addressed the easiest aspects of her performance first – the positive ones.   The problem with this approach, however, is that it failed to acknowledge the real issue at hand – her overall contribution.

As we discussed Sarah's performance, I thought, "maybe she needs more training, maybe she'll come around, maybe we haven't given her enough".  I focused the questions that I was asking my GM around those thoughts, failing to ask the sometimes "difficult" questions that would have led to a timely, efficient power choice.  Even though deep down we knew what needed to happen, we held on to a team member that needed to move in a different professional direction in her life.  When you're not afraid to ask the tough questions, it becomes clear what actions need to be taken in order to propel your business forward.

Power choices lead to powerful results.  After more time and deliberation, we finally made a power choice and asked Sarah to leave our company. Immediately, things began to change and people took notice. At a heightened level, team members were realizing how committed we are to the health and growth of our organization. We restructured some responsibilities in the office and began to recognize previously unnoticed talents in our team members. The real cream began rising to the top.

As leaders and managers, our team members will only be as good as we encourage and allow them to be, but we cannot take action for them. They've got to want it. They've got to have a burning passion to be the best they possibly can, and this will only happen if we lead them by example. Once we set the desired example, they need to have the initiative to take the corresponding actions. Sometimes their internal desire to remain in a certain position wanes and they don't even realize that it happened. This is a fairly normal occurrence, since people and organizations both change over time. Hasn't your organization changed a lot over the last several years? It's up to the leader to recognize fluctuations, address them, make power choices, and take the necessary corrective actions.

We have the opportunity to make power choices every day. We often think that today's small actions won't matter much, and we can make big changes in the future. This is a complete fallacy. What we do today matters, even if it seems insignificant in the greater scheme of things. The questions we ask ourselves and our team today help us make informed decisions and necessary adaptations in the future. If you haven't noticed, the game has changed, and is continuing to change.

During the period that Einstein was an active professor, one of his students came to him in disbelief and said: "The questions on this year's exam are the same as last year's!" "True," Einstein said, "but this year all answers are different." As leaders, this principle applies to us and the daily power choices that we make. If the answers have changed, then our choices need to reflect these changes. Once we embrace the constant evolution of our companies, instead of resisting it as I did with Sarah's situation, we see tremendous improvements in culture, productivity, and profit.  Not only did our company benefit from a power choice, but Sarah is much happier now that she's no longer in a role that doesn't fit her.

What an amazing opportunity we have to positively impact our companies and enhance people's lives each and every day.