WI SHRM: What to do with a talent anchor?

(note:  Whenever I speak to groups I provide cards to them in case they have a question I cannot answer during our conversation(fyi:  I call all my presentations ‘conversations’).   My commitment is that I will blog answers in 2 weeks.  This question was submitted to me after my Talent Scorecard presentation at the 2011 Wisconsin SHRM Conference in Madison.  I do not edit questions – because my commitment is to answer what is asked.)

Question:  What doyou do if your most successful sales employee and shareholder is the one costing leadership to lose money and sleep?

One of my core beliefs since working with many smaller businesses is that loyalty matters, and being slow to let someone go is okay.  As I read your question two things come to mind:

  1. How is success defined for this person?
  2. When their performance is evaluated – are they judged based on WHAT they accomplish, as well as HOW they accomplish it?

I think back to a situation where the top technology person at a company struggled for years with alcoholism that caused multiple missed work days, missed deadlines, and bristled work relationships as he relapsed repeatedly at company parties, sales events, etc.  All of this, and he stayed in place for many years.

One key habit that is critical for any organization is the CEO going down the list of their people and talking through each person in terms of what they provide, what success looks like for them, and how they are performing from a metrics as well as a culture standpoint.  The key people/key role discussion that is described in the Talent Scorecard is critical to bringing focus to this issue.  Since doing this with an internal HR person is often difficult, it should be done with a board group or an outside consultant.  The value is a safe place to process information and ask yourself some tough questions.

Finally, the book SWAY made a point about irrational decisions.  In studies of people, if they looked at a situation from a net loss perspective, they were less likely to make a rational decision.  An example is investing:  When people say to themselves – If I sell today I will lose 10% of my initial investment – then the are more likely to ride it down lower, even if the outlook is grim.  People are the same way.  When they start looking at people and saying – if we let this person go then our sales will suffer, or the knowledge they have will go away – then we keep them, even if all the other evidence points to it being a bad decision.

Anything to add based on your experience?