In any given profession you’re going to have the “nefarious”, “unscrupulous”, and even unethical present…..and if you’re really “lucky” some of these “jewels” will work for you. Let me just say that none of us are perfect and we ALL have experiences in our lives that we aren’t too particularly proud of and admitting that is the first step to humility and “GROWING” from those experiences. Yet, there are some among us that haven’t grown or evolved which let’s be frank have caused HELL for the rest of us. I read the other day that the top profession “Psychopaths” is most attracted to is “Chief Executive Officer”…..and ranked in the top 10 “Salesperson” (GO FIGURE!!). I’m sure there’s validity to these findings I didn’t find in the article what specific traits of a “Psychopath” that closely aligns to a CEO/Salesperson’s mentality however I can probably take some fairly good guesses and be spot on!
I wanted to spend a little time in this post speaking to the aspect of “Leading” a team of “Bad Characters”. If you’ve been in any type of leadership position for a period of time chances are you’ve had the opportunity to manage such individual(s), and I’m sure you have your stories. Having had the good fortune of holding a wide variety of leadership positions in my career I have had the honor of managing folks who let’s just say took “Cutting Corners” to a whole new level. I’ve been in depositions and close to appearing in court because of the activities of some of my sales & marketing employees. What makes this a really challenging situation is that you may have good employees become influenced by these “predators”….and now you have problems. Moreover, I’ve had situations where my top salesperson was the “cancer” and 65% of my business came from their performance (they were that good!), but their unscrupulous behavior was so intolerable I had to let them go which impacted my business greatly. One important perspective I learned early on in my management career is that “Performance” & “Integrity” CANNOT be separated. If you think about it “Performance” comes and goes especially in the sales business, I’ve seen a lot of situations where there are “1-Hit Wonders” of folks who had 1 good year and proceeded to follow that up with 3 or 4 poor years…..consistent top performances are very rare in the sales business. Conversely, “Integrity” is based on “Character” it’s who that person is, and that lasts a lifetime. So, YES in my humble opinion “Performance” & “Integrity” has to go hand in hand and NOT separated…..otherwise in my example above I would have stuck it out with the “Bad Apple” who was a stellar sales performer because they got me my 65% growth….
It’s actually not worth it…..
Believe me and I understand the pressures to succeed in this day and age especially in occupations like the sales profession, and sometimes just turning the shoulder and ignoring bad behavior appears to be the safest, job securing move present……BUT IT’S NOT. Turning the other way can find you in jail these days and you don’t have to be the culprit. I consult everyday with leadership in corporate America holding positions in sales & marketing and the subject always comes up on how to deal with employees who consistently demonstrate bad behavior. Typically in corporate America it’s handed over to HR however all of us who’ve been in that environment understand it’s a process and I’ll leave it at that……
There are action steps you can take to manage such “HR Issues” and quite frankly I made it mandatory for my folks who were responsible for sales teams to have locked in these processes:
Engaging with the employee of the bad behavior should be the 1st step. Identify Behavior Discrepancy, and do they know the specific behavior is unsatisfactory?
(Personal opinion here: It irks me when there is “Conflict Avoidance” leaders….I’ve typically weeded them out)
•Accurately discuss/record what specific behavior needs to change (document this)
•Show how the behavior CAN negatively impact sales/and or performance results (e.g. field conference reports, sales data, time spent outside sales responsibility)
•Unfortunately, engaging with the employee has to be somewhat frequent and consistent. There must be maximum involvement between leader and employee (document all meetings)
•Getting an agreement from the employee that a change in behavior must happen (this can happen in conjunction w/HR if it’s escalated to that point)
•Important to let the employee know that they’re responsible for their behavior (this often has to be agreed upon because “Deflection” can occur quickly)
•Have a “Coach Plan” in place. This is additional documentation to possibly use if termination is likely.
•If you find it necessary to engage HR at the beginning of the conflict, make sure you document, document, and document. In addition, always provide “Real Examples” of the behavior demonstrated either in coach plans or HR documentation…..subjectivity and inaccuracies can get you in real trouble.
•Most companies have “PIP” programs (“Performance Improvement Process”), if it’s necessary to institute this process then I would recommend this. Usually these are 90 days in length.
I’m hoping ONE thing stands out to you……THIS PROCESS IS LONG!!
Yep, it’s a long sometimes tedious process and that’s why avoiding it can be explosive and destroy the rest of your team. In addition, dealing with these 1 or 2 individuals takes away attention from other members of your team and can destroy morale quickly.
CLOSING: If you have a cast of “Bad Characters “confront it…..avoiding it becomes nuclear! “Dancing with the Devil” will not payoff in the long run and you may find yourself in a situation you didn’t cause. It’s better to have “Good Characters” you can coach and enjoy being around!
Check out my presentation on “Developing a Global Sales Team for EXCELLENCE”!!
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AH2 & Beyond Consulting