"The supervisor is disruptive and causes conflict on our team. But, he does know the work, and gets things done in an important area of our Company."
As a coach, I can't tell you how many times I've heard that comment. We might spend several full coaching meetings talking about this individual, and getting to the root cause of what is going on. It's a challenge in that the person is a solid/OK performer of the work, but is causing stress within the team. And I can empathize. In some ways, it's important to remember that this individual, too, is a person. They may even feel they are "trying hard, and delivering on the Company's goals."
If you've done your investigation and the problem does, indeed, lie with them, what can be done?
You are left with four options:
- This person can make their own personal changes.
- You, as the leader, can make organizational changes, or even move them to another group. When that happens, you will hope that these organizational changes make a difference in behavior.
- You can fire the individual.
- You can do nothing.
As a coach, I like to start by asking about Option #4 ("do nothing"). If you do nothing, what results can you expect? Almost always, the leader replies, "If we do nothing, it will damage the culture of the division, people will quit, and I'll have more work to do as we back-fill those roles. We can't leave it as is."
OK, that's great. Now, at least we know that "doing nothing" is not an option. Now, there are 3 options, so let's play them out:
- Make personal changes: For this option to work, the individual will have to have a level of self-awareness, and openness to feedback. Most likely, a leadership course won't create the long-lasting, tough changes to behavior. 1:1 coaching may be a great opportunity for their growth.
- Make organizational changes: I have seen this option work. The X-factor is going to be, how engrained is the disruptive behavior? How long has it been going on, and do they have a foundation of positivity to fall back on? If the disruptive behavior is a recent phenomenon, sometimes a transfer to a new manager will be just what is needed for them to succeed.
- Fire them: As with option #2, we'd want to look at how engrained the behavior is. If it is a lasting-pattern, exiting the person from the Company may be the best thing for you, their team, and for them. The reality is that most people care about their work, and are good-hearted people. With some reflection, some time off from the Company, and a new environment in which to excel, the individual may succeed in their next role. I have seen "disruptive people" become superstars in their new companies.
Back to the point of the title of this article, "Who is responsible for lagging performance?" That one is easy, if you're the leader, it's YOU. It's your job to get involved, to define a plan, and to make that plan work. I advise all business leaders to have a coach, to talk through these tough situations, or even get ahead of them. A coach can help you to go from brainstorming, to crystallizing a plan, to helping to keep you on track during implementation. And, perhaps most importantly, work with your coach on: "How are you feeling as you're going through this? Are you doing OK, and how can you talk through everything so that you are clearing your emotions?"
Please let me know what you think of this article, as it hopefully helps leaders empathize with each other as they experience these situations