Last night I was talking with my friend Rick Miller at a top marketers dinner, and he shared an interesting perspective that I’d like to pass along.
Rick and I were talking about what blunts, thwarts, and derails growth initiatives in companies we’ve observed. Sometimes it’s poor strategy or ungrounded planning. More often it is inconsistent or poor execution of a decent plan. Sometimes it’s when an individual becomes stubborn or unaccountable to an extreme, and that’s what consultants share war stories about.
What leaders need is to have a simple way of triaging their people, whether they are overseeing a dozen or hundreds of staff. Rick, who served as president of AT&T’s Global Services division and is now a sought-after turn-around expert at Being Chief, thinks of it this way: you have to know which of your people are already going, who are waiting to go, and which people will not go after reasonable effort.
Let me elaborate.
Your Go-Go people are individuals who take on responsibilities, communicate progress, and are eager for more, both to contribute to the organization’s goals as well as to develop their base of experience and deepen their skill set. Go-Go’s thrive with challenge and deserve support and appreciation. More than anything, though, they enjoy finding ways to contribute and are easy to identify and manage.
Go-But people are those who are capable of being Go-Go people once some condition is met. The trick is to understand and address the issue. In one situation, it might be having more autonomy (i.e. they will “go-but” they need to feel more in control). In another case, it might be removing an area of responsibility for which the person is not suited, or getting additional support in terms of adding a team member who can handle that function. Go-But’s are often the largest segment in any company. The key to unlock their potential is to truly listen to their issues and concerns and address the ones you can. One time while producing a video with a small group of outside experts, I found one of the members was hanging back, reluctantly. When I spoke to him privately, I found out that he felt he wasn’t being heard. By directing more requests for input his way, he became fully engaged. What a big return on a small effort – something you can put to use with your colleagues and team members.
No-Go people give as little as they can get away with. For one reason or another, they are mismatched for their job responsibilities or have personality conflicts with their managers and/or teammates. Additional training may help in the short run. Re-assignment is also a short-lived solution. You have to realize that this is an attitudinal problem, or an “inside game” issue, not an external problem that can be solved with traditional resources. When excuses outweigh results over a period of time and various solutions have been attempted, it’s best for the individual and for the company to have the “it’s not working out as we hoped” discussion. CEO’s should consult with their HR specialist in advance and/or include him or her in the meeting with the no-go employee.
Here is the observation that Rick and I shared that I’d like you to consider.
Where do you think strong leaders spend most of their time and energy?
In far too many organizations, we’ve seen leaders overly focused on the no-go’s, trying to fix their problems and mediate their demands. That leads to unsatisfying results for the leader, the employee, and the team. Rick says that a healthier model of leadership in action is present when a leader spends more 1:1 time on the wait-go’s than on the no-go’s, and I agree with that assessment completely. When a leader addresses the Go-But issues successfully and converts enough Go-But’s to Go-Go contributors, the culture of the organization shifts dramatically.
Into which categories would you put your closest colleagues in this model?
More importantly, would your closest colleagues say you were a Go-Go, Go-But, or a No-Go person on the team?