Friday, December 9, 2011

Loyal, to the End

Loyalty is an incredible element of leading fearlessly.  Clearly, there are limits to which any loyal relationship can be and should be broken, but the leader who can, without hesitation diffuse a situation and stand up for their team is a leader that people will jump through fiery hoops again and again for.

Sometimes loyalty is dealing with bad news and bad performance.  My proudest moment as a manager, to this day, is when I had to give a yearly performance review to someone where they were "zeroed out".  No wage increase.  No bonus.  The message was deliberate: the performance was totally mismatched with expectations.  The employee was a super smart individual but had lost his way.  The discussion was totally awkward, and it would have been easier to just fire the individual.  The harder task was to confront and resolve the situation, to get the individual to agree with the assessment, to recognize and relish the expectations, and to focus on the goals and not the past.

The individual killed it the following year.  The same co-workers who did not want to work with him voted him a top technical resource in the company.  He ranked in the top 20% of employees based on his performance.  I could be wrong, but I am pretty sure he would jump through fiery hoops for me, if he worked for me today.  Not just because of getting a bad review and turning it around, but because of consistent communication and support.  

Clearly, waiting for a yearly reviews is not a great way to deal with performance issues.  Different companies have different paces and styles in regards to such things.  Constant communication about expectations and performance and demonstrating fierce loyalty are ways to make sure that nothing ever deviates far from the intended path, though.  Lead fearlessly, and people will follow with passion.

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