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Good People Can Bring Problems--Here's Some Advice
By John Kilroy on July 1, 2011

Sometimes the 'people' aspect of running a racing business is the toughest part. We received some good advice about handling common 'people' problems in excerpts from the book, "The Benevolent Dictator: Empower Your Employees, Build Your Business, and Outwit Your Competition." It's written by Michael Feuer, cofounder of OfficeMax. We thought you'd enjoy reviewing them for any new solutions to an age old problem:

“Once you identify an employee who is good, but whose personality or habits might present a problem, you have two choices,” stated author Feuer. “You can simply get rid of the troublesome employee and risk the consequences of lost productivity. Or you can take the more profitable route and find a way for peaceful coexistence by learning how to deal with the performer’s shortcomings while taking advantage of his or her strengths.”

If option number two sounds better to you, then read on to learn about the three most common types of challenging performers, and how best to manage them:

1. The Prima Donna: He might announce a brilliant solution to a longstanding problem, or he might unfailingly woo the biggest customers. But through it all, your prima donna wants to be applauded, coddled, admired, and generally treated like a celebrity. This behavior consumes your time, disturbs day-to-day operations, and alienates other team members.

The Live with ’Em Solution: The easiest solution here is to put your cards on the table. Tell your prima donna how valuable he is and how grateful you are for his work, but also let him know that he’s a real pain to deal with, and that he’s approaching a crossroads. Ask what you can do to avoid future problems and stress that your door is always open—but make it clear that these behaviors need to change (or else).

“Make him a part of the solution by putting the onus on him to come up with a fix for a peaceful and productive coexistence,” advises Feuer. “Allow him to win, but on your terms, not his. Remember that most prima donnas are typically okay people deep down inside. Usually, their egos have been stroked too much in the past, or they’re hiding a major inferiority complex—or both.

“Sure, prima donnas require more of your time and attention, but the alternative is losing a high performer—potentially forsaking productivity and inciting some major anxiety. If you figure out what makes your prima donna tick, you’ll be a big step closer to neutralizing the annoyance factor while preserving productivity.”

2. Mr. or Ms. “It’s Not My Job”: Technically, this person isn’t breaking the rules. She does everything her job description says she should, and she does it very well. But when she’s asked to go above and beyond, expand her role, or pitch in on another project, she responds with, “It’s not my job.”

The Live with ’Em Solution: “Not everything an employee is asked to do is going to fit comfortably into their pre-determined job description,” notes Feuer. “But the fact is, a successful organization is a team effort, and sometimes people need to do more to help out.

“I have come close to firing employees on the spot for refusing to help on the grounds that the task at hand wasn’t their responsibility,” he shares. “Now, I make sure that every member of my team knows that ‘whatever it takes’ isn’t an option—it’s a requirement. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if someone is an administrative assistant or a vice president—it’s all for one and one for all.

“If you’re a leader, it’s your job to make it clear in no uncertain terms that contributing to success—in any way necessary—is everybody’s job. Oh—and if you’re interviewing someone from a company that went caput, make sure that the interviewee’s attitude didn’t contribute to the downfall.”

3. The Perfectionist: Nobody can deny that your resident perfectionist is a hard worker. He makes sure every “i” is dotted and every “t” is crossed--every time. He’ll continue to tweak a report or project hours after someone else would have declared it complete.

The Live with ’Em Solution: Normally, an employee who thinks that a half-baked effort is unacceptable would be an asset. The problem is, when it comes to not accepting anything less than perfection, there can be too much of a good thing. As a leader, you must make sure that your employees don’t sacrifice too much tim--or end up failing to achieve anything at all--in a quest for the best.

“Don’t get me wrong--I’m not saying that you should encourage lackluster performances or tell your team that they shouldn’t worry about getting it right the first time,” Feuer clarifies. “After all, it can cost your organization quite a bit if time and energy aren’t used wisely. Remember that if you’re putting out a fire in a garbage can, you need only a few gallons of wate--not an entire water tanker!

“Try to help resident perfectionists distinguish between tasks that must be done to the letter, and those that can be done just adequately enough to move on to the next step or support another initiative. This is often a learned skill that can be difficult for people—especially those who are fearful of making a misstep--to embrace at first! Therefore, be very clear and cautious when you’re explaining what must be done…and how much time and energy each task is worth.”

“Remember that most major personnel problems within organizations get that way because leaders have ignored a series of smaller issues along the way,” Feuer concludes. “You should absolutely deal with your most difficult personality types—and watch out for budding prima donnas, perfectionists, and unhelpful types in the making! And always keep in mind that you aren’t marrying these employees. You just need to be able to occasionally dance with them.”

For information on purchasing a copy of "The Benevolent Dictator: Empower Your Employees, Build Your Business, and Outwit the Competition" (Wiley, 2011, ISBN: 978-1-118-00391-6, $24.95), go to www.benevolentdictator.biz .


 

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