Rule #1 in Leadership; Be the Change

Mahatma Gandhi is known for saying “Be the change that you wish to see in the world”. This post is inspired by’s article on How to earn more trust as a business leader. In addition to their 6 points, I’d like to add an even more critical.. know when it’s time to change & have the courage to pull the trigger.

I’ve always believed that if someone in my organization under-performed consistently, it was 90% my responsibility & only 10% theirs. As a leader, I have the power to hire, promote, educate, reprimand and fire an individual. So if you have a consistent under-performer, the problem isn’t theirs, it’s yours.

If you’re willing to sustain mediocre or poor performance, then you’re not leading by example for the rest of your team who are indeed eager to step-up & continue to perform. By not dealing with under-performers, you are uninspiring others who are inclined to move-to-action under the right circumstances.

The Results Curve

Experience tells me that when you take a corrective, educational or change action, the following curve should appear as a consequence of your intervention;

  • @30 days you should see learning applied
  • @60 days you should see behaviors modified
  • @90 days you should see an impact on measurable performance or business results

If you’re not getting these results, and you’re doing nothing about them, the problem isn’t them, it’s in your management of the situation. How are you going to behave differently and truly value your company’s most valued assets?

The Detractor Factor

HBR posted this interesting article on When to Fire a Top Performer Who Hurts Your Company Culture, which led my thinking to a parallel scenario I see all too often.

In any organization, just before “a change” is required, it’s typical to have 20% of the people who are disgruntled about something that’s happened in the past and refuse to overcome the subsequent resentment. These people will always see the cup half-full & will typically have the us vs. them complex. We label these people detractors.

Then we have the other 60% of the organization, which is on-the-fence delivering average performance. These folk can move in a positive or negative direction, and although their nature wants to move in the positive direction, they will often very easily be influenced by the detractors if you haven’t done your job as a leader.

The remaining 20% are your top-performers. They go about their business producing & consistently delivering results. Unfortunately, you spend so much time disciplining, or dealing with the fall-out from the detractors.. that you end-up ignoring top performers. Out of frustration for not having their contribution recognized, your top performers will eventually leave. Your 60% on-the-fence will become disheartened, more easily influenced by the detractors.. and now your “bad apple” volume has significantly increased in your organization.

Jim Rohn is known for stating; “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with“. What are you doing to weed-out your detractors? What are you doing to sure up your on-the-fencers? How are you valuing & recognizing your star performers? What type of performers will you allow to influence the rest of your organization?

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