One of the most impactful lessons I learned while working with some of the highest performing basketball players, coaches, and teams in the world, and something I constantly discuss with my corporate clients, is the importance of creating, building, and maintaining a high performing culture.
A culture of respect, inclusion, and diversity.
A culture of accountability, honesty, and personal responsibility.
A culture that models the organization’s core values, mission, and vision in everything they do.
And a culture that won’t tolerate anyone on the team – regardless of their performance or contribution – that undermines this culture in any way.
For simplicity, I define culture as how well you align your team’s beliefs and behaviors.
How congruent is what you say and what you do?
You preach the importance of respect, accountability, and a variety of other core values… but does every member of your team model these traits every single day?
When it comes to beliefs… have you clearly defined and articulated your core values, mission, and vision… or have you left it ambiguous? Do you talk about it, emphasize, and reinforce it every single day?
When it comes to behavior… there are only two options: you either accept it or you correct it. There is no middle ground. When someone in your organization is consistently doing things that are in alignment with your core values, mission, and vision… you need to acknowledge it and praise it (because that which gets praised, gets repeated).
When someone on your team is consistently doing things that are NOT in alignment with your core values, mission, and vision… you need to care enough to coach them up and correct it.
Letting it slide is the worst mistake you can make.
That’s because, when it comes to culture, you get what you accept. Culture isn’t what you preach, it’s what you tolerate. Culture is the feeling that those on your team and those that you serve experience in every interaction.
If you accept/tolerate anything other than what you claim, you have a low performing culture.
And as they say, ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast.’
One of the biggest mistakes I see well intentioned companies make is they are too focused on outcomes and results. They reward high producers solely on the productivity – the numbers – while barely paying attention to the way they interact with their teammates (or the customers) and how they show up. They disregard the myriad of ways they undermine the culture because they get such fantastic results.
The truth is, no matter how talented a team member might be, even if we’re talking about the top performer on your team, if the person isn’t a team player or they aren’t modeling your core values, mission, and vision… you won’t win in the long run with them.
That’s why we need to stop relying solely on the numbers when evaluating a team member’s performance. How they conduct themselves is just as important as the results they get.
But I get it. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the numbers can tell the whole story. But they can’t. They can’t give us the full picture. It’s too black and white.
Don’t get me wrong… results matter. Outcomes matter. Productivity matters.
But they aren’t the only things that matter. Not if the goal is long term, sustainable high performance, profits, and success.
The Two Types of Team Members to Watch Out For
#1) The High Producing Jerk
To paraphrase Netflix CEO Reed Hastings: “Some companies tolerate them. For us, the cost of undermining teamwork is too high.”
High Producing Jerks deliver outstanding results. They’re talented high performers and they get the job done at any cost. They work long hours. They hustle hard. They crush their sales quotas, and according to all competency-based results, they are the top performers within a company.
The problem is… they are also jerks.
They are arrogant. They are obnoxious. They are selfish.
They don’t play well with others.
While you can’t deny their excellent results (their numbers), you can’t ignore their ways in which their attitude and approach undermines the company culture and alienates them from their teammates.
Deciding what to do with a High Performing Jerk is incredibly challenging. While their personal productivity is off the charts… you must ask… but at what cost? How is their behavior eroding the cohesion and culture? How is their ‘me first’ attitude undermining their teammates’ performance? Will their behavior drive other quality teammates away?
I get it. A business’s job is to turn a profit. I can empathize with the question, “How can I afford to lose my top producer?”
If you’re currently dealing with a High Performing Jerk who is toxic, disrespectful, and a terrible co-worker, you might need to put the numbers aside, recognize the negative effects that this person is causing, and ask yourself a better question, “How can I afford to keep someone that is undermining our culture?”
No matter how extraordinary this person’s results might be, you, as a leader, need to put your people before the numbers and stop ignoring the negative rippling effects of such toxic behavior.
In the long run, a High Performing Jerk will crush your team’s spirit and your credibility as a leader.
#2) The Low Producing Nice Guy (or Gal)
Every business, team, and organization have that one team member that everybody likes. The one who is supportive, funny, and easy-going. The first one to get invited to every happy hour.
This is the type of person we all want to have on our teams, right?
Well, only if they can get the job done.
Contrary to the High Producing Jerk whom your team will constantly complain about, the Low Producing Nice Guy/Gal is much harder to spot.
Because everyone on the team adores them, it’s much harder to recognize their low performance, low productivity, and poor numbers. They tend to fly under the radar and blind you with how affable they are!
As mentioned previously, the numbers don’t tell the whole story.
But they do matter.
And they matter a lot.
If the Low Producing Nice Guy/Gal is constantly underperforming, it shouldn’t be ignored, no matter how loveable and charming they are.
Their low performance adds strain to everyone else. Other team members need to pick up the slack. They will need to take on more responsibility to cover up the low producer’s poor performance
In the long run, a Low Producing Nice Guy/Gal will drain your team’s resources, make work flows highly inefficient, and will cause increasing – but most likely quiet – resentment amongst teammates.