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Sunday, 23 November 2014

How Do You Handle the Senior Executive Who is Going Off the Rails? Not With Kid Gloves!

At the risk of being repetitive (although at my age I'm allowed) I seem to be seeing more and more issues with the behaviour of some senior people in business.

We have discussed this issue previously and regrettably on the basis of its apparent frequency. It concerns the high performer who develops a bad attitude and worse behaviour.

It is certainly a factor in the management of people that causes more emotion and uncertainty than many others.

Those members of staff who are manifestly good or even great performers but whose attitude and behaviour leave much to be desired undoubtedly have a toxic effect in their colleagues and the business.

It seems to be more common in external sales people perhaps because they are essentially loners with only occasional contact with HQ.

People like this are a problem at all levels of management simply because their bottom line results are allowed to justify their erratic behaviour. 

The question is, what is more important, the bottom line or the toxic effect of bad attitude and behaviour?

It is all a question of values. If the leader has determined the standards and publicises the values of the business to which everyone is expected to subscribe, then anyone stepping outside the norm, quite frankly, should have a case to answer.

What we want to achieve are people who genuinely want to go where the business is going, who are engaged and in alignment with the values and the strategy.

However the really serious problems arise when a senior member of the executive, perhaps a director, starts to exhibit these negative symptoms.

Fairly obviously this becomes a matter of decision for the acknowledged leader because it would be generally inappropriate to discuss the situation with the miscreant's peer group.

However before any action can be taken it is essential to build a dossier of evidence that in some cases can only be derived from hearsay and sometimes gossip.

There is no question that everyone in the business will be aware of the problem and probably affected by it in some way.

For the leader, the problem is twofold; firstly there is frequently a strong emotional attachment to the individual, often because they have been with the leader for a long time and have always been loyal and secondly, because of the possible effect on the overall performance of the business.

I have seen several instances over the past years where this problem has arisen and it can cause real distress in the leader.  Oddly while the miscreant seems to be comfortable about the situation it is the leader who is experiencing the emotional upset.

As a consequence there is a tendency either to tip-toe around the problem and live with it, or alternatively to take some action that we hope change the individual.

As a matter of fact, we cannot change anyone just as we cannot motivate anyone.  The only person we can change is our self.  What we can do that is positive is to provide an environment in which people can change and/or be motivated – should they so desire.

Whatever is decided, as Shakespeare said:

         "If t'were done, t'were better done quickly

The worst approach is to close the eyes and hope that the problem will go away because it won't; in fact the odds are that it get worse.

So, once again it's JFDI (just do it) time. Perhaps even JFDS (just do SOMETHING) is better than prevaricating and hoping that the problem will go away.

We hope that people will change. Sadly it is an idle hope and the only solution is action and that is the function of the leader.

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