When the phone rang and I heard the tone of his voice on the other end of the line, I knew there was a problem. “I realized something, Geery,” he said. “One of my divisional leaders has the wrong person on the wrong seat on the bus.” As he described the impact of this situation, I knew he was right.
As he explained over the phone, after months of trying to change the department culture, improve the systems and stabilize the turnover within the division plus coach the poor performing leader to a new level of performance, things were just not working. “I realized,” he continued, “it was a poor hire from the very beginning. They were not a good fit with our company’s values.”
As he shared, I remembered John Maxwell’s “The Law of the Lid” in his book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow them and People Will Follow You, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1998, which states that “Leadership ability determines a person's level of effectiveness.”
Months later he called back and reported that they had removed the dysfunctional leader and asked others to step up. However, this resulted in other leaders burning out and quitting, too. “Why did this happen?” he inquired.
“It is not uncommon,” I replied. “B players tend to hire C players rather than A players.”
“Oh my,” he responded. “We have a lot to do to dig ourselves out of this hole.”
Technically, I pointed out, you can’t easily dig your way out of a hole. Most people just dig deeper. Now the engineers and construction managers I know would point out that you can dig yourself out of hole only if you are willing to dig a spiral stair case around the edges of the hole in order to get out.
In reality, we as leader need to recognize that we got ourself in the hole in the first place because of our beliefs and mindset. Our thoughts, or lack there of, led us to digging the hole in the first place. Changing people in certain positions may help but the greater and most important challenge is to not dig yourself into a hole in the first place. In short, our choices as leaders are based on what we think. And given what is happening in the big world at this time period, we need to do more thinking before we act.
This week, pause before you start digging and ask yourself, “Is this the best choice to make given the situation?”