There is a lot of information available about leadership and how to retain and cultivate a great team culture. But you find most leaders don’t like to talk about the failed attempts at recruitment and what happens when you discover that some people are just not ready to be coached, or don’t feel they need to develop personally.
Most business owners have made the mistake of employing the wrong fit.
The question is, how do you then remove the ‘square peg’ from the environment in a way that avoids conflict and toxicity?
Too often, we do nothing because it is easier than the alternative.
I am fortunate to have spent the same amount of time as a property manager and employee as I have running a business and leading my own team of a dozen employees.
After almost 25 years in the industry, I have come to learn the truth about leadership, and the truth is, it is incredibly challenging.
It can also be incredibly rewarding and the rewards usually outweigh the challenges if you learn the lessons along the way and get better at it.
Early on, I felt obligated to fix people when they were a little broken and solve all of their problems.
I now understand the massive difference between fixing and influencing.
Lead, listen and learn
In the past, I tortured myself with many sleepless nights trying to figure people out, constantly questioning my approach and leadership ability.
Fortunately, I have a special power.
I have become a master of self-reflection and I learn from experience, which is why I would like to share what I have learnt with those who might be on an early leadership journey.
I am also open to change, and I am not afraid to ask my team how I could have handled a situation more effectively.
I listen to all feedback and continually work on my own performance as a leader.
From my learnings, I hope to help you navigate some of the hurdles without crashing, or at least put some things in perspective so that you can have a smoother run.
Upon reflection, I think that I have been a little harsh on myself over the years when it comes to managing people and staff retention.
It’s not until you have the right people on your team and a great culture of high performers, that you realise how toxic a work environment can become when you hold onto the wrong people.
The rise and fall
I have learnt that it is okay to have high expectations; some will rise and thrive, and others will run out of places to hide.
When you provide an environment that has a strong focus on development, incentives and recognition, you will automatically expose the people who might be a little lazy and refuse to grow.
It is likely that these people will eventually move on to an organisation where expectations are low and they are not noticed.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting that I am the perfect leader by any stretch of the imagination, but I can put my hand on my heart and say that I try to give my team everything I have to make them feel valued, appreciated, acknowledged and rewarded.
I provide the tools, the training and the resources to create consistency and I support my people when they are committed to personal growth and career development.
In return, I expect that my team gives the same commitment to our clients and customers (not to mention each other).
Their objective is to make people feel valued.
If this is a high expectation, I am willing to lose the people who might not rise to the standards in order to maintain the service promises we promote.
The most challenging part of being a leader, is knowing when it’s time to lead people out of the organisation.
I say ‘leading out’ because I have personally never ‘let someone go’.
I don’t like to see people in that position if I can avoid it (unless it’s serious breach of employment).
I care about how that would impact someone’s livelihood and I feel an obligation to lead them out respectfully and let them make the decision for themselves.
Some might suggest this is a sign of a weak leader, but I believe it is a sign of a leader who has heart and one who takes responsibility for the people they employ.
I have committed to years of development training with people who simply didn’t want to be led or didn’t think they needed to be.
Because I am not a quitter, I have been known to hold on to those wrong people for far too long and I have witnessed the carnage.
The problem is, some people don’t have the emotional intelligence, or haven’t developed it yet, to see the behaviours in themselves and how they impact the team environment.
Often they only see the problems in others.
They are usually the same people who complain about everything and everyone behind the scenes, instigating office gossip and fuelling a toxic environment.
When you focus on the broken, you neglect the high performers
The catch with working too hard to ‘fix people’ who don’t handle feedback well or feel that it is everyone else that needs to change, is that we tend to neglect the high achievers, the people who are hungry for mentorship and development.
These are the people who achieve the best results and contribute to a positive culture.
It is important to remember that they also need regular recognition and encouragement, it is a human need.
If you neglect to keep them motivated, they may just go somewhere they are noticed. I can’t stress how important it is to nurture your key performers.
It is a similar scenario to the 80/20 rule in managing property.
Let’s say you are managing 100 properties and 20 of them are low-returning properties that are high maintenance with tenants who don’t pay rent, along with an owner who refuses to maintain the property and you are continuously fighting to try and keep everyone happy and safe.
You spend your time trying to fix the problems with the 20 poor performing tenancies and you neglect the other 80, the people you could have been building relationships with and building a tribe of raving fans.
I think we all know that what we really need to do is respectfully say goodbye to the 20 clients and focus on our core clients and customers.
Onwards and upwards
I am writing this today because I am looking around my office with great pride in my current team.
They are fully-engaged, motivated to be the best versions of themselves and all bring something unique to the fold.
They support and encourage each other and while they are all very different, they share a common vision and ethic.
I am not naive enough to think that we won’t have challenges in the future, but I do now know how to navigate the winding road and I will always lead with the 80/20 rule top of mind.
If you can look yourself in the mirror and honesty confess that you have tried everything possible to support your people and you allow them to contribute and thrive in your business… sleep easy knowing you have done your job.
If they are not willing to toe the line and return that respect, lead them out, learn from it, and move onwards and upwards.