In Action, Change, Leaders

“By trying to not get anyone mad, and by treating everyone equally ‘nicely’ regardless of their contributions, you’ll simply ensure that the only people you’ll wind up angering are the most creative and productive people in the organization.” – Colin Powell

Today’s quote is a long one, but the whole thing is worth reading repeatedly.  Unfortunately, too many organizations have never read it, or even thought about anything like it.  So many leaders seem to think that their number one priority is to keep everyone happy, or be liked, or some combination of the two.

There is some logic to that, although it’s fear-based, so maybe it’s not that logical after all.  In our current world, virtually every employer is worried that if they lose people, they won’t be able to find replacements.  So, they do everything they can to keep all their employees, even the ones that shouldn’t be there.

One of the problems with that mindset is that what you’re really saying is “a bad employee is better than no employee.”  We think that even if someone does a little bit of work then having them is better than not having them.  If our problem employees leave, the thought process goes, then the people who are still here will be overwhelmed with work, and we don’t want that.

That line of thinking is generally not accurate.  I’ve seen plenty of organizations who thought that way, and when the problem employee finally left, they actually had more capacity afterwards because of the negative energy and time-wasting that person had been bringing to work every day.  Fewer were doing more work and were actually happy about it.

The fact that our problem employees are dragging everybody else down is bad enough.  What’s worse is when our best people leave because they don’t want to be around that environment anymore.  Because they’re great, your best people will always have other opportunities.

When you bend over backwards to keep everybody happy, eventually you’re left with only those employees that nobody else wants.  And they won’t be happy anyway.

How does your organization treat its best people?  Its worst?  If you can’t say how those groups are treated differently, then chances are there is no difference.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that your job is to keep everybody happy.  Your actual job is to keep the company healthy.  Sometimes that means doing unpopular things, or doing things that might make somebody angry.  If you can’t live with that, then you can’t lead.

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