Send 'em packing - why Belichick was right

Not unlike Bill Belichick, I manage people for a living.  Well, it's not a pro football franchise and I don't have a boat and millions... you get the point.  Like Bill, I deal with performance issues, family problems, strange requests, and motivational stuff.  Sometimes it's a lot of work to keep the ship sailing smoothly and sometimes it's not.  When you have key people on your team who are mature and lead by example, it makes a manager's job that much easier.  And sometimes you have problems.

I've seen it time and time again.  Many managers are not professional managers.  That is, they didn't STUDY to be a manager.  In the environment I work in, a large Fortune 50 company, people rise to the top in a technical ladder and are then "promoted" to manager; the thinking is if they can build widgets really well, they can manage people to build widgets.  If the newly minted manager doesn't take some sort of management training, the percentages are rather high that they will fail miserably.  Why?  Because managing people is less about keeping track of all the tasks they're doing and more about leading them.

One of the hardest skills to learn is delivering negative feedback.  Very few people thrive on confrontation; most times we shy away from it, but if you don't do it in a timely manner, it can fester.  Such is the case with the Adalius Thomas, Randy Moss, Gary Guyton, and Derrick Burgess.  The transgression was slight - missing an 8am meeting on Wednesday morning by minutes.  Some have stated a fine would be more appropriate, that taking 4 key players out of practice for a day is actually punishing the remaining players.  Those "some" are wrong, IMO.

As I mentioned above, things have a way of festering, of spreading like a bad cold.  A manager needs to nip these things in the bud quickly.  Why?  Because others notice.  You may not think they do, but they most definitely notice.  First, they feel like they're commitment matters, that showing up early for a meeting is recognized as a good behavior.  People will respond to that and continue that behavior.  Second, and most importantly, it sets a tone.  It sets a tone of what is tolerated and what is not allowed.  By publicly flogging a few, the many quickly realize what's acceptable.  Most of the time, they will elevate their performance as a response.

Hunger, fire, whatever you want to call it, is a carefully cultivated asset; it's an intangible that is so important to an organization.  Like a campfire, it takes work to keep the embers glowing and the fire roaring.  Sometimes you need to discard that "green" piece of wood that's dulling the fire, robbing the nice, seasoned pieces.  Sometimes you need to send a message.  Sometimes you need to raise the bar.

Bill was right.  Let something like that go and it festers, spreading to the rest.  Set a tone and those that are smart enough to hear it will learn.  Others will not.  And they'll be gone.

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