(Draft of John's new book: Your comments are welcome)
Tolerating A Poor Performer
Turnaround expert Bob Seelert reported in his book “Start with the Answer” how he learned painfully that it is not wise to continue managing people who don’t fit in. Like a lot of startup CEOs, Seelert needed team players who would go the extra mile to help the money-losing company, Cordiant, regain its footing. The following is an excerpt from the story as reported by Investor’s Business Daily, May 26, 2009.
“Hiring the wrong person or tolerating for too long has been my biggest mistake. If people aren’t working out, sometimes you have to let them go rather than hang onto them. I inherited someone in a staff position who wasn’t fitting in. He kept getting in the way. I should’ve terminated him right away, but I didn’t.” So he kept the person for a year, largely because the staffer’s employment contract had a two-year termination agreement with a severance allowance. To avoid paying the severance, Seelert decided to put up with the employee’s poor performance.
Looking back, Seelert laments “wasting a year” managing someone who hindered his efforts to rescue the company. He wishes he had fired the individual sooner, paid the severance and moved on.
Making the Wrong Call
Seelert soon made another misjudgment in filling a key leadership position. An executive recruiter found a candidate with what Seelert calls “an outstanding track record.” Seelert hired him promptly.
“Everyone had the perception we had just found our Babe Ruth,” Seelert said. “Soon it became apparent he was grounding out to second, then popping up, then striking out on three pitches.”
Fresh from his experience holding onto a poor performer for too long, Seelert dumped the executive without dallying. But the distractions caused by the two abortive hires led to lost opportunities and slowed Seelert’s progress in turning around the company.
Seelert replaced the fired executive with someone who understood and appreciated the firm’s culture. More than a decade later, that person serves as the company’s CEO.