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Sunday, 17 May 2015

Great Performer, Bad Attitude? It's Just Not Cricket!

The sad and sorry saga of Kevin Pietersen's now truncated career with England cricket seems to have climaxed this week and not before time.

There are so many lessons that we in business can take from this story and it is worthwhile summarising the situation  

KP, a South African, qualified for England through a four-year residency.  He is a swashbuckling batsman who has turned many a game on its head by sheer brilliance and has given a great deal of pleasure and entertainment as a consequence.

However there is a darker side to the story.  His attitude and behaviour have not been of the highest standards, for example in the texts he sent to England's opponents (South Africa) complaining about the England captain.

He wrote his autobiography, Crossing the Boundary, which contained many other jibes at officials and other players, he decided to go to the  IPL (Indian Premier League) to play one day cricket as well as the same in the Caribbean and left his county Hampshire to play for Surrey.

After a very brief spell as England captain, the England coach was sacked and KP was dropped from the team.  Moreover rumours abounded that there was serious disruption in the dressing room among the other players.

In my Vistage group we designate as 'terrorists" those employees of businesses who are good and sometimes exceptional performers but with bad attitude and poor behaviour.

If we consider one of those quadrant matrices, so beloved of consultants, and plot performance on the vertical axis and attitude on the horizontal, we can start to analyse the perceived value of people to an organisation.

What we would always want are people in the top right quadrant, high performers with great attitude. On the other hand the question to ask about those in the bottom left square is why are they still here?

Those in the bottom right box with good attitude but are indifferent performers can be coached and mentored to improve.

The real problem arises with the top left box, great performers with a bad attitude.

How to handle them, what to do to try to change them, what effect are they having on the rest of the team, because the worst thing that can happen is a deterioration in the integrity of the team.

Invariably they are loners, hell bent on being successful as they see it, and lacking in empathy with the needs and aspirations of other members of the team.  In other words they are a disruptive and toxic element in the business.

At some time the leader has to decide on a course of action that is frequently to remove the "terrorist" from the firing line. This may mean redeployment or more frequently total removal from the business.

It doesn't seem sensible, on the face of it, to fire your best performer but it can be the only way for the good of the team and of the business. A disruptive person in the team can cause chaos with the potential loss of other good employees.

The key factor is decisiveness on the part of the leader.  Shakespeare said "If t'were done, t’were better done quickly” and sadly this is not always the case.  Vacillation takes over, efforts to change the offender are put in place and everyone waits for the inevitable conclusion.

A big lesson to be taken from the KP affair is to do it quickly, fairly and finally. Do not let others interfere or hint at a possible solution. There must be no doubt in the minds of everyone that the matter is closed and normal service can be resumed.

In the KP case it has been handled appallingly with indecision and vacillation.  As a leader take this lesson to heart.

And when 'tis done, it is remarkable how many people will say "What took you so long?"

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