Sally Vs. The Greater Good

Sally, our lone survivor of the Great Chicken Massacre of May 2021, is a feisty hen.  While Sven is at the top of my flock’s pecking order, I’d bet money that Sally is the top hen.  I’ve seen her peck at the younger hens when they wanted to roost next to her at night or chase them away if they have a little morsel of treat that she wants for herself. Last year, she went broody in early spring, but we weren’t ready to add peeps to our flock. When I kicked her off her eggs every day to collect them, she would aggressively peck at me.  This occurred every day for over 3 weeks until she finally gave up.  She went broody two more times during the spring and summer before we finally agreed to let her hatch those eggs.

When her chicks hatched, look out! Sally would fiercely defend those chicks by attacking any potential threat including other hens, peeps from another clutch, or one of my dogs that got too close for her comfort.  At one point a chick from another brood wandered over to Sally, not realizing this wasn’t her “mom,” and Sally grabbed that chick by the neck and tossed her away.

A few years ago, we ended up with a plethora of broody hens.  We had eggs and broody hens all over the coop.  Sally hatched her chicks first, and in order to make room for the other broody hens, we moved Sally and her chicks from the hatching coop (a.k.a. the birthing coop) into the main coop.  The next evening, I went to check on them and there was Sally, sitting on her own chicks and someone else’s eggs, while the two broody hens were huddled off to the side (and not on eggs).  Even funnier was that our rooster, Hei Hei, was sitting on the remainder of the eggs.

But youth doesn’t last forever.  I’ve recently realized that Sally isn’t laying eggs anymore.  She might be a feisty hen and a great momma hen, but her job is to lay eggs.  So, here I am – wrestling with the hard decision of what to do with her.  Sure, I could keep her and let her live out her life at Marlee Acres.  But I only have room for 11 hens, and if I keep her, I am limiting the number of egg-producing hens I can care for.  She is my oldest hen, and she has been a great hen, but I wonder: is it time to put her out to pasture?

How many business owners struggle with this same challenge? You have a long-term employee who has been loyal through hard times, but as your business grows, it feels like perhaps the company has outgrown her.  How do we balance loyalty with the needs of the company?

Let’s take the emotional piece out of it for a moment.  I believe the greatest gift we can give our employees is the opportunity to do work they love and excel at.  This should also include the ability to assess their own performance and progress, independent of feedback from their manager.  In the world of EOS, that is what makes the Data Component, specifically what we call the measurable, so powerful.  A measurable is any number that an employee is accountable for keeping on track every week; it is activity-based and within the employee’s control.  People who GWC their seat (Get It, Want It, have the Capacity to Do It) are motivated to keep their measurable on track.

We can find a good example of a measurable in the sales seat.  Closing new accounts is an obvious goal for a sales person. But closing new accounts is a by-product of other sales activities. So let’s break those down. What actions would a person in the sales seat need to do on a weekly basis to ensure they are closing the desired number of new accounts?  Is it a certain number of phone calls completed? Sales presentations made? Or something else? The answer to those questions is a great measurable for someone in the sales seat.

Often when I ask a sales person their goal for number of weekly sales calls, what I hear is “as many as I can.”  I have no idea what that means – do you?  As Zig Ziglar said, “You will never hit a goal that you don’t set.” Sales can be a tough grind, but having clarity on weekly targets can motivate people to stay focused during inevitable droughts.

The goal is to make sure everyone in your organization has at least one number they are accountable for keeping on track.  If you haven’t done that yet, look at the 5 roles each seat is accountable for on the accountability chart.  What would be an activity that a person sitting in that seat could complete every week that would result in success in that role? Or think about specific activities that would lead to improvement in that particular seat.  The measurables don’t have to stay the same forever; just pick one or two where an improvement could help the company move toward achieving its vision. Then revisit those measurables on a quarterly basis.

If you are struggling with this concept, EOS Worldwide posted this article around how to find good measurables for HR.  It may spur some good ideas within your leadership team.

Now, about that employee you fear the company has outgrown: does that person have a measurable they’re responsible for keeping on track every week?  Is that number within their control?  Are they hitting that number?  Do they GWC their seat?  I firmly believe that every employee wants to come to work and do a good job, so I’d encourage you to make it easy for that employee to understand what a good job looks like.

But what if you have a “Sally,” someone who isn’t performing in that seat?  One option is to do nothing: leave her in the seat and let her perform to the level she is capable of.  The downside of this is you’re sending a message to the rest of the employees that the goal of having all the right people in the right seat doesn’t apply to everyone.  Another option: you could move that employee to another seat she is more suited for.  Or, finally, you can encourage her to move on to a greener pasture where she will have the opportunity to spread her wings and fly.

As you decide how to handle this situation, consider what is best for the greater good of the organization.

Need help talking through your issue? I’m an email or phone call away.  Together, we can find a solution that allows you to honor your core values while respecting the contribution this employee has made to your organization. And if anyone would like a feisty, aging hen, I’d be happy to ship her to you.

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