Breaking from the weakest link

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In your business, political party, sports team or within your circle of friends, the weakest link will impact the collective. Should we look to improve the weakest link or should we look to cut it out, remove it and would that improve things or adversely impact the remaining members?

It never ceases to amaze me how managers have this incredible ability to tolerate under performance rather than stepping into those difficult conversations, taking assertive action and ultimately do what they are paid to do - manage. If you are suffering with underperformance in your business and you are not dealing with the route cause, then you can expect things to only get worse. The rest of the team will start to question your authority, question the culture, and even more disturbingly wonder why they should bother giving their all. The cracks that then open can be so bad that often the only reversal of fortune will be your head on a platter in order to change the fortunes of the collective. Weak management will always be exploited, first by the employees, but then by the senior team if the lunatics start running the asylum - ‘don’t lose the dressing room’.

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All of this is of course hugely challenging for the manager, who is now under pressure, stressed and struggling to find his/her feet whilst walking on very delicate ground. One of my favourite expressions is “if you can’t change the people, then CHANGE people”. An effective manager will have a strong personnel file clearly documenting the concerns they have in respect to this weak link. They will be watching their every move, giving them ample opportunity to reform, but also not relenting in their desire to make change, irrespective of the discomfort. Strong and effective management requires highly skilled communicators who are never afraid to step into a difficult conversation.

The ability to ask searching questions, deliver constructive criticism and to present an action plan in order to create change are key to a successful outcome at this point. Do not linger, do not question your next move, you must now step inside your instincts. You are a manager as you have experience, with experience comes instincts, listen to them, connect to you gut not your mind. A wise monk once asked me to think about all the times I chose to listen to my mind over my gut, he then asked, how well did that work out? Do not get distracted by your mind, it will be operating from fear, a desire to take the easy option. Those who are truly successful in business, sport or politics have a trail of difficult but effective decisions in their wake, they don’t look back, only forward, always forging ahead.

Your corporate culture will be adversely impacted by allowing toxic people to suck the energy from your your team. Companies invest millions into developing their culture, but often fail to make decisive decisions to protect it when facing challenge. Losing people is always tough, having to let someone go is one of the toughest decisions I have ever faced, but the alternative can be extremly costly in both time and money. Leadership is about stepping up to the plate when tough calls are needed. Weak leadership stands out a mile and rarely tolerated for very long, you will soon be the hunted rather than the hunter.

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The question is therefore simple, are you an effective leader or are you allowing others to control you? Taking some time away from your team with a blank piece of paper can be a very effective tool here. If you have a team of 20, simply make a list, placing your number one performer first and then moving down in descending order. When you get to the bottom three, start to question their input, their output and how better your team would be if you replaced these weakest links? Next take action, let them know where they are in respect to their piers and give them an action plan and a timescale. If they change, then you have removed the weakest links, if they don’t, then you need to remove the weakest links. It is that simple.

Your fellow employees, party members, or players will take notice, they will recognise your strong and decisive business style and the core will strengthen and move forward.

Jörgen Sundberg, leading recruiter, estimated the cost of onboarding an employee at $240,000. And, according to the U.S. Department of Labour, the price of a bad hire is at least 30 percent of the employee's first-year earnings (source - Forbes.com). That is for a bluechip. For the SME sector we know that figure is a five-figure investment in the wrong direction, the wrong person and able to bring down a company!

Justin Caffrey

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I work with corporates to review performance, evaluate sales teams, boards and managers. During my work, I provide a helicopter view to allow you to make these key critical decisions with clear management data and the right conversations. Be effective, be prepared and always be willing to have the difficult conversations.

Justin was accredited the 2018 - 2019 All Star Thought Leader in the All Ireland All Star Awards.

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