There Are Only 2 People Issues in Business — And You Probably Have Both

empty chair in an empty roomPeople are at the foundation of every great business. In order for a team to achieve the company’s vision, the team must be surrounded with truly great people, top to bottom throughout the company.

Many leadership teams know this, but they aren’t aligned on how to do this. Things quickly get muddy when it comes to what action to take, how to execute it, and when. In a survey of business owners, 82% cited people issues as their number one frustration.

That’s because most teams haven’t taken the time to get crystal clear on their unique definition of what it means to be a “great person” for their company. And if they have a general idea of what a “great person” looks like for their team, then the next typical challenge is that they aren’t consistent in applying that definition to every role in the company.

As a result, a leader can feel like they have 22 different people issues at any given moment. And that is an extremely overwhelming feeling.

How do you overcome this? By understanding that at the root, there are only 2 people issues, not 22.

Right Person, Wrong Seat

“Right person” means that your employee fits into your culture. They truly care about what you care about. You love them. They share your unique core values.

“Wrong seat” means that the roles you expect them to fill aren’t a right fit for that person. They aren’t a rock star for the seat they’re occupying. Maybe they were at one time, but something has changed. Perhaps your company has grown or adapted in some way where it requires different skills and abilities than it did before. And now they may not be able to understand what the company needs from their position, they may no longer want the position, or they may not have what it takes to do what the company needs them to do.

How to Handle the Wrong Seat

When someone is the right person who shares your values, you can often look throughout the company to find a different seat that’s a better fit for their talents and abilities. The challenge is when there is no seat or position available for them. This is when you’ll face a tough decision, and ultimately you’ll have to let them go.

A decision like this is simple, but never easy. Always keep the greater good of the company in mind when faced with a tough decision like this.

Wrong Person, Right Seat

“Wrong person” means that they really don’t fit into your culture. They don’t share your core values. Or it feels like they’re “hot and cold” all the time—sometimes they feel like a fit, while other behaviors show otherwise. For some of these people, they act one way in front of their boss, but they act another way when the boss isn’t around. These people are inconsistent at best. And that’s the nice way of putting it.

“Right seat” means that this person is extremely talented. They’re very skilled at what you expect them to do, day in and day out. They may even be one of the top performers for their role in the company. They understand the bigger picture of what they need to perform, they want to do it, and they have what it takes to get it done.

How to Handle the Wrong Person

When someone is the wrong person, they’re a cancer to your organization. Even if you don’t see it on a day-to-day basis, they will kill your culture long term. Tolerating them in your organization will cause great people in your company to become demotivated. They won’t work as hard when they see the poor behavior of the wrong person is tolerated, and ultimately they will leave your organization.

The challenge is that this person is in the right seat—and likely one of your top producers. You may feel like you’ve got to keep them, otherwise your company will instantly lose revenue or profit. Ultimately, keeping the wrong person will do more damage to the company over the long term. They may put the reputation of the company in question, other key people will leave, and too much time and energy will be spent putting out fires that this person caused. Always keep the greater good of the company in mind when faced with a tough decision like this.

No company is perfect, but it is possible to get aligned with your team and overcome these two people issues. I urge you to use two great tools in the EOS Process to evaluate Right People, Right Seats for your company:

Get clear about your company’s unique definition of Right People, Right Seats. It will simplify your life, it will save you time, and it will make your business more effective, fun, and profitable.

Next Steps

This article originally appeared on the GPS for Small Business blog on October 5, 2016.

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