How To Tell Your People They’re Worthless
A colleague of mine many years ago had an interesting approach to observing and grading her staff’s performance.
We used a standardized form to grade each person’s job performance on their respective stations. It was a tool for both training and development to improve operations and build the team members’ job skills and competnecy.
“Micky” ran a higher volume operation than I did at the time, the flagship unit of the company. She inherited a facility that had solid leadership previously and a grounded and well trained staff that executed well. It was a golden opportunity with the pieces already in place to take the unit to another level of performance. She was young and recently promoted to the position, and was determined to show her influence and position.
However, Micky failed to gain a loyal staff because of a fatal flaw in her leadership. One of the key indicators was how she graded performance.
Micky’s approach to the station grading, was to never give her staff a perfect score on their performance. Ever.
Her justification? “Nobody’s perfect; they always have something they can improve on.”
What Micky failed to realize is she was telling her people they were worthless and could never be good in her estimation.
It should come as no surprise that internal conflict started to occur. Turnover increased, and employee engagement started to suffer. Revenues started to drop. Upper management spent more time in the facility. What was handed over to Micky as a smooth sailing ship was run aground by the following leadership failures:
- Not recognizing your employees for what they do. Micky failed to acknowledge the already well-trained staff of what they did well. Her failure to highlight people’s competency started to create resentment and distrust in her people. Good leaders will always praise and promote their people’s abilities and skills.
- Lack of faith in your people. Another by-product of her critical attitude towards her staff was effectively saying that she did not trust them in their jobs. When a person is constantly critical staff will play down to the expectation of them. Conversely when you show your people trust they will play up and fulfill that trust even further.
- High standards became unattainable. High standards are great, but unless people are supported and trained to attain them, or see them being attained, they will get discouraged and stop trying. Micky killed her team’s development by not allowing her people to attain the standard – one that was commonly attained in every other company facility.
- No commitment to true training and development. A leader’s true task is to build their people up to reach performance metrics and skill levels. Micky failed to see this as being relevant to her role, and instead she adopted a mindset that her job was to point out flaws. Her ability to train, even after pointing out any deficiencies, was poor. She never set her folks up for success.
- Non-verbals communicated disdain for people. Micky was also notorious for showing her frustration that people couldn’t do their jobs. Rolling the eyes, sighing audibly, her sour demeanor, and huffing around after a mistake was made – these all underscored her contempt for her people. She may have tried to talk a good game, but her people knew exactly where they stood by her body language.
- What you say is what you get. Micky’s self-proclaimed thinking was “I’m the manager, so no one should get better scores than me.” Micky set a goal, and achieved it. It was unfortunately a misguided goal.
- Pride. Micky’s pride was ultimately her biggest flaw, and downfall. Her people became a bother to her, and got in the way of her job. Every mistake that occurred as the store spiraled downward, she took personally as her people sabotaging her.
Eventually, the company had enough of her personality and dismissed Micky. Her replacement spent the better part of two years cleaning up the mess, but eventually got a solid and well trained staff and turned the operation around by devoting her time to building her people up.
Micky failed to acknowledge that the core fundamental tenet of leadership is to inspire and develop your people. When grounded firmly in a culture of value, people tend to perform at their highest levels. When absent, engagement and performance decrease.
The absolute worst thing a leader can do is to see themselves in a role to lord over their people. Be a servant leader, set your folks up to win, and grow your business by growing your people. It’s the best way for a leader to grow as well.