People issues are invariably the hardest part of running a company. Great people build energy within a company and propel it to great heights. Bad people can spread their bad habits and infect the good folks. Typically, people are hired for their resumes, but fired for their attitudes. When is an attitude so destructive to your business that you must act?
We know the types of folks who sap the energy from a business: the person who's always looking out for their own interests, asking for more money at every opportunity. How about the person who puts everyone and everything down? Or the person you are afraid to ask what they did all day because you know you won't like the answer? Sometimes even people with great skills turn out to be an energy drain and distraction for you and your company.
A few years ago, while at a disruptive company forum at Hamburger University in Illinois, I participated in a session with a brilliant marketer and author, Michael Maddux. He shared an insight that helped me immensely when thinking about the kind of people who propel a company forward and those who hold it back. In his opinion, there were three kinds of people who drain the energy out of a great company: victims, know-it-alls and non-believers. We have worked with that model and adjusted it over the years. Here are the “toxic 4” -- the employee traits we believe can really distract and even hurt growing companies:
1. The WIIFM (what's in it for me). These are the folks who view every issue through their own selfish lens, and often place their self-interests ahead of the greater good. They take all the credit and feel a need to one-up those around them. This type of person makes everyone more self-interested and builds distrust within an organization.
2. The know-it-all. Shuts down any creative discussion, believes their opinions are facts and won't admit to being wrong. This person stifles innovation and alienates high potential folks who want to grow and contribute. They can be the people who won't support anything that they didn't create.
3. The finger pointer. Won't take responsibility for problems, but happily takes credit. Blames other people or external circumstances for their continued lack of success in their projects. They enable a blame society where everyone seeks to distance themselves from responsibility.
4. The clock watcher. The person who claims to be working, but their output doesn't reflect it. They appear busy and fill their days; however, they aren't productive and everyone knows it. These folks can instill a "why should I bother" mindset in your most productive workers.
No doubt we all have moments where we display some of these behaviors ourselves, we're only human after all. However, for certain folks this is not a passing fad, and make no mistake, these four traits are a cancer within a successful growth culture. The longer they rest within your firm, the harder it will be to lessen their impact.
If you want to have a dynamic growth culture, you simply cannot afford the cost of people who aren't a good fit. As a consequence, we have tried to act swiftly when we know that no amount of coaching will change a person's attitude. We have also operated with a simple filter we look for and reward when assessing our team, our “magic 4.” Consider:
1. Loyalty. A desire to fight for a cause bigger than themselves and care deeply for the well-being of those around them.
2. Humility. A willingness to openly listen, acknowledge weaknesses and genuine desire to grow and improve.
3. Responsibility. To take ownership of their circumstances and work hard to do what they say they will do. Take responsibility when things don't work out.
4. Productivity. Take pride in making things happen and making an impact, generate outsized contributions and output for the team.
We work in a service industry, and that means we are entirely people-dependent. The way our people act and interact drives the quality and success of the entire business. If you want to improve your business you have to improve the way your team works.
Many of us are loyal by nature. After all, something caused us to want to enter an industry where we serve the needs of our clients. The challenge is that this loyalty can often lead us to avoid the tough decisions when it comes to our team. There is one telling and often surprising sign when you act fairly but firmly with folks who aren't a good fit -- the rest of the team will be relieved and appreciative. The good apples stay healthy!
Joe Duran is chief executive of United Capital and the bestselling author of “The Money Code: Improve Your Entire Financial Life Right Now." Follow him @DuranMoney.