How to Handle C Players in Your Organization

The next lazy CEO management secret is about organizational role players, specifically C players. When we work with people in peer groups, we do have them rate the people that work for them. And when we see a report card, we often see A-minus, A-plus, right. You know that you’re not doing a good job of assessing your talent at that point. It’s highly improbable that everybody’s an A or A Plus. And in fact, my argument is if you think they are above the bar, move the bar. So you got some B’s and C’s like, increase your expectations of what your team does, because if your bar is low enough that everybody can be an A and A-Plus, then your bar is not high enough. And that’s your job as leaders to set the standard. And if your standard is low enough that everybody can perform at exceptional levels, you need a higher bar of what you expect from people.

If you think they’re all A’s, you may be a, B or C. Well at least on assessing people, you’re a B so, so everybody has A’s, B’s, and C’s right. And, and normally it’s a standard distribution. There’s about 10 to 20%. A’s most of us are BS 10, 10, 20% CS that are just not really performing in the job. If you do a good job of hiring a plate, it might be a little better, but let’s say you figure out somebody who’s a C and the definition of a seat is if they left the company, I would do absolutely nothing to stop them from leaving. And in fact, I could improve the person in that position for pretty much the same money.

A B if somebody does a darn good job, they show up every day, they’re fully competent, they’re fully capable. And if they left, I’d probably be able to get somebody at that level, but I’m not a hundred percent certain about that. You know, I might try to do something if they tried to leave an a, is somebody that over performs the job consistently, like by a factor of two, that they’re so much better than anybody else in that job, they are profoundly better. And, you know, I’ve had software programmers like this engineers, like this salespeople like this, it doesn’t matter. Any job can have somebody who is two or three or four times better than anybody else in the job. They are a little difficult to manage because they are so demanding and smart and driven. But you need a couple in your organization. If an A came to you and said, Hey, I’m thinking about leaving you, you know, you would go, what do I need to do to keep you to stay in this organization?

So everybody’s got a couple of A’s and just realizes who they are. If you don’t think you do you’re wrong, you’ve got some, so move your bar up until you have one or two. And, this is even harder, particularly when we’re growing. And so the bar is moving up. As we grow, you may have that conversation with somebody who for years and years and years, they were meeting the standard. And as the company has gotten to two X, three X, can’t meet the standard anymore. They were great at 5 million, they’re not at 20 million. And so it may not be that they did anything wrong. It may be that the organization grew and they didn’t. Right. So they stayed fixed, and the organization would pass them.

So first is to make them aware their performance doesn’t meet the standard. So option one is to coach them, okay, how can I help you become better? What guidance do you need? Like you’re working over here. You need to be working over here. Whatever the coaching is to try to get them up to at least B level performance. You’d rather save them if, if they are saveable maybe it’s education.  So we’ll, we’ll invest in some seeds to see if we can save them. So maybe they don’t understand something. So I’ve seen people that are in managerial roles that he never had, for example, financial education. And so they were innumerate, didn’t understand numbers. And so let’s go get them some financial education so that they have that competency. And sometimes that does the trick to bring them from a seed or B because now they get how the numbers move.

But let’s say that doesn’t work. We tried coaching them. We tried to educate them. We made them aware of the issue. So they could maybe self-correct, but none of it works. One option is to shrink the job. So this has got a lot of egos involved in it, and it’s not an easy conversation, but if you go look when we were 5 million, I named a CLO, I’m going to move you to VP of east coast operations. Let’s say, half the job. It’s not, it’s half the size of the prior job. And you may have shrunk the job enough that they can be fully competent.

And you may lose them over that move. I’ll tell you though, a lot of people say, well when I change your job, I’ve got to change their money. Don’t change their money. That kind of stinks, but because you’re going to be overpaying them in the job you’re putting them into. But if you change the job and the money, you’re basically, you might as well just fire them in 19 out of 20 cases. They’re not going to get big raises. They’re not going to get, like, we’re just going to let the salary catch up to them.

The second idea is to shift them. Cause so sometimes people are in the wrong place, right? We hired him in as an engineer, they’re a crummy engineer, but they’re a really good salesperson. You don’t actually have to be a great engineer to be a good salesperson. I can vouch for that. I was a very B minus level engineer, but I was a pretty good sales guy. So, and they hired me as an engineer. And within 18 months I was in sales. So sometimes you’re just in the wrong job and, and, and that goes to the philosophy that there is a right job for everybody. And if it’s here, we’d like to find it.

That brings us to the third option. When they’re not, we’ve made them aware, we’ve educated and we’ve coached them and they haven’t gotten there. The third is to exit them. And the only word I want to put around exit is humane. You want to maintain positive relations. Hey, it didn’t work out. I want to help you find the perfect place for you to be. It isn’t here. I’m sorry about that, but let me give you some money on the way out the door to help. I’ll give you a reference I’ll but you, you’re not going to be here anymore. They may have a different attitude about the termination, but I think you want to be humane, respectful and maintain positive relationships on the exit because you never know where people end up. And that’s just the right thing to do.

And so if somebody is in a company in a job that they can never be successful in for you to let them stay in that position is abusive. You’re abusing human beings. If you know that they will never get another promotion, they’ll never get more money. They’ll always be an under-performer and you let them keep doing that. You’re just not being a nice human. If you do that, it’s our obligation to get people to good places in life. So, let’s figure that out, and let’s get them out as quick as we can. And there is this – Everybody else already knows who’s a C player. And so everybody’s looking at you going, why isn’t he making a move?