With 5 days left in the 3rd quarter now is a good time to get out your pruning shears. When trying to build a great team constant pruning of those who won’t ever measure up is necessary. Pruning is an analogy that Dr. Henry Cloud uses in his book Necessary Endings, The Employees, Businesses, and Relationships That All of Us Have to Give Up in Order to Move Forward.
I found the analogy exactly the right message for me at the right time. I can sometimes struggle with pruning employees from my business always resorting to the “we didn’t try hard enough to coach and develop them” trap. Recently my call center merged with another one giving me more employees than I had seats. Naturally this meant I really needed to look at performance and behaviors and possibly making some cuts if I was going to shape this new group into a great team.
For the next month I watched not only their performance trends but also their behaviors. Behaviors are often just as, if not more, important that performance. It is easy to coach performance and to raise an employee up to the right level of production but behaviors and cultural fit isn’t always something we can help to change. Of course before you can look at behaviors your company must have a strong set of values that everyone is expected to live up to. Fortunately for me my company does have a strong set of values and I drive those values on a daily basis.
When looking to prune employees, business or other relationships out of your life there are three categories that you use to classify them. Again Dr. Henry Cloud uses the analogy of a rose bush. To have a beautiful rose bush you must know which buds to prune and when. A rose bush can only sustain so many stems, leaves and flowers. The same is true for you and your managers. You can only spend so much time with each direct report. When trying to build a great team, it is important that your time be spent on the ones who can achieve greatness in their role rather than the ones who will never make it to the finish line. If you allow the following categories to stay on your rose bush it will never live up to its full potential.
First, they will never be number one. These could be the employees who have maxed out in their current role. They do their job just enough but without the extra 10 percent effort never really rising to the top of any category.
Second, they are sick and struggling. These employees are between not going to be number one and dying. This is where we spend a majority of our time. They are on and off performance plans and constantly at your desk troubleshooting their performance. This could also be the employee who is struggling with changes within the organization and who are not willing to move forward with the new direction you are trying to go. If that is the case they are going to also work hard to convince everyone else to go against the change.
Lastly they are already dead. These are the employees who are always at the bottom and whose performance has never met the bare minimum standard. They may be the employees you struggle to find work for and are often the most critical to prune. This category can be a huge de-motivator for the rest of your staff because they see them still working but at a significantly lower rate of production.
One of the topics that Dr. Henry Cloud spends a great deal of time on is how we view pruning as a negative action, regardless of who is doing the pruning (employees can prune you as an employer). To sum up his position on this, when you don’t prune you are holding yourself and the employee back. If you don’t prune them they can never move on to the thing they will be great at and your team can’t move forward to become the best team possible.
Without pruning you either prevent greatness or you prolong achieving it. Time is precious in life and in business; a month becomes a quarter which becomes a year and before you know it you’ve lost a great deal of time. Check to make sure you aren’t holding yourself or your employees back by not allowing a necessary ending from happening.
More Actionable Advice:
Latest posts by Jason Cortel (see all)
- A Better Way to Have a Difficult Conversation - June 13, 2015
- Add These Tips from Grandma to Your Leadership Tool Kit - May 30, 2015
- Tuesday Tip: Start the Day with Clarity - May 26, 2015