Dear Sharon – April 2019

Q. My company has been really focused on culture the past two years and I am happy to report it is working, with one exception. Our top sales performer is a serious problem. His ego is huge, and he is not a team player at all. It is obvious to everyone that he believes he is untouchable and, in some respects, maybe he is. The issue, as I see it, is we require everyone to champion the values we discuss, yet we allow this one individual to not comply. Our credibility is eroding because of it. What should we do? The president is obviously concerned about the loss of his revenue.

A. The old adage, “one bad apple can spoil the bunch” certainly applies here. But you must be strategic, as you don’t want to send the company into a tailspin. First things first, the president has to buy into a plan, and it must be done quickly. There are two paths I would suggest with both done simultaneously. The first part of the strategy: contingent planning around customer transfer, product knowledge, etc. must be done. Someone needs to get inside this person’s head. At the same time, the president must put this top performer on a performance plan around attitude and team dynamics. Here is where the leader’s ability to share a “tough love” conversation and maintain accountability to the requirements is critical. The president cannot waver on what the outcome must be. The ownership of that outcome is then transferred to the employee.

But here is an interesting fact. In all the times we have observed this happening, which is a lot, never has the culture not improved to the point that “high tide raises all boats.” Everyone is so happy that they all work harder, therefore replacing any lost revenue very quickly. The subsequent culture that ensues not only increases revenues, but tenure and employee  engagement as well. Good luck!

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