How Do I Handle The Negative Top Performer?

August 2006, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Dave Anderson - Also by this author

At this week's management meeting, discuss your own ideas to these five key questions to building your team, using the answers given as thought starters.
1. “How do I handle the top performer who is negative and lowers team morale?” Your first job is to determine why he is negative. Oftentimes, a top performer becomes disruptive to get your attention. If he doesn't feel special or recognized, is treated just the same as a bottom performer or perhaps gets even less of your time than the weaker players, psychology dictates he will change his behavior until he gets your attention. If this is the case, realign your priorities and start giving your best to your best. If the aforementioned is not the issue, you must confront the person and let them know precisely what they are doing that's wrong and admonish them to fix it immediately. Don't dance around the issue. Make sure they understand the good of the team comes before the good of any individual. If the behavior continues and you can't turn them around, you will have to remove the person. Nothing diminishes your credibility faster or keeps more good people down than when you retain a skunk just because he makes the numbers.

2. “ When my team has disagreements, shouldn't I step in quickly to solve the matter so we can get on with the business at hand?” Not necessarily. It depends on the severity of the issue and the extent of damage its creating. Ideally, you will encourage your team to work things out amongst themselves whenever possible. If they don't learn to collaborate and communicate on their own, they will never develop into a high performing unit. In addition, you don't have the time to do your job and play referee at the same time. The idea is to make your top people less dependent on you, not more.

3. “What is a primary character or personality flaw that can stop me from building a great team?” One of the biggest is pride. It is impossible to build a great team if you have personal pride to the exclusion of humility because if you are not humble, you will think it's all about you and won't see the need or feel the urgency to invest in others. After all, you're a legend in your own mind—the main attraction. However, don't confuse humility and timidity. Timidity is a disease. And while you must remain personally humble to build a team, you must develop a ferocious ambition for the advancement of the organization. A big part of being humble is realizing that you don't have all the answers and listening to those around you who do. It also means you understand your purpose is to serve and add value to your people; not the other way around.

4. “ How important is it that I have personal charisma in order to lead my team effectively?” Charisma is one of the most overrated aspects of effective leadership. While it is true that a follower will sooner feel leadership from a gregarious extrovert, character and competence are much more important in the long term. All charisma does is get you in the door and buys you time. Eventually, you have to deliver results to be an effective leader. I have found that leaders who take a genuine interest in people and put others first develop a powerful charisma that draws others to them.

5. “ I'm just starting out building a team. Where do I begin?” While you must train, care about, set expectations, give feedback, hold accountable and learn how to motivate every member of your team, you must identify your high potentials and customize a plan to mentor and develop them more closely. Determine what they must learn and accomplish to reach the next performance level and, together, create a roadmap to get them there. The extra time and attention you invest in your high potentials will be leveraged and returned many times over. It's vital that these high potentials are ready, able and willing to grow. They must be 3 for 3. Some are ready and willing, but they aren't able. They've reached their peak and their ambition exceeds their competence. Others are able but aren't willing. They're happy just the way they are. Choose the ready, willing and able because as a leader, you don't have the time to smack people in the head with a bat and drag them around the bases.

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