Weak Links

The quote in my inbox read, “Our fates are tied. We have this strange notion on this planet that our fates are not tied. If it were not so we would not be here together. It’s that simple.”

Written by Luisah Teish, we are reminded that our fates are interconnected.

But what if there is a weak link? What if we are that weak link that has the potential to destroy what is being created? What if someone else’s that weak link? How do we address it?

Many years ago, a friend of mine attended Harvard Business School and shared a story with me that dealt with a situation like this. The course professor wanted an answer to the effect of, “Take the person aside privately and counsel them about the importance of what they’re doing and they need to step up and deliver well.”

My friend laughed as he told the story of another student who shook his head. The sum of an Asian industrialist, the answer he learned was, “You bring everyone together and that person into the center of the room. You fire them! You humiliate them and their family. No one will ever do that again.”

I’m not telling you to do one or the other.

I am going to tell you to be prepared to do both if you’re in a leadership role.

The correct answer from that professor will work sometimes. Sometimes, that employee is experiencing a personal hardship that they are carrying into the workplace. I would never tell you to fire them. After all, each of us will experience difficult times that we will carry into work. If anything, I would encourage you to run interference for them with everyone else.

But there are those times where a person is failing, is in over their head, or has lost interest in delivering their best. You accept mediocrity from them or demand excellence?

How would you respond if you are taking the side and told, “Harriet / Henry, your work is been terrific for so long but I’m disappointed in what you’ve been delivering lately. Is this your best?”

How would you respond to that? I would feel sad and hurt and try to fight back and do better. Some people would confess to their disinterest in their job at that point.

I remember a time when I was new with my last search firm and wasn’t generating sales. I met with Stu, the sales manager, one Friday and he asked, “Have you given up?”

I remember feeling angry and misunderstood and saying something to the effect of, “No bleeping way have I given up” and a tirade that released a lot of the frustration that I was feeling about my performance. I went on to a long and successful career with that firm.

How do you deal with weak links?

Do you ignore them?

Do you challenge them?

Do you encourage them?

Do you put them out of their misery and fire them?

Whatever you do affects others.

I don’t believe it’s right to ignore the problem and hope that it goes away.

Love them enough, have enough courage, be truthful enough to have the difficult conversation.


Ⓒ The Big Game Hunter, Inc., Asheville, NC 2020


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Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a career and leadership coach who worked as a recruiter for more than 40 years. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 1900 episodes, and is a member of The Forbes Coaches Career Angles | Jeff Altman, The Big Game HunterCouncil.

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