If you have been a first or second line manager in a Fortune 500 company, you are familiar the popular theory that you must rate 30% of your employees as "Does Not Meet Expectations."
I sometime wonder why we as voters cannot apply a corporate management technique like that to our elected political leaders where it would do some good.
I would have no trouble finding more than 30% of the Washington politicians who need to be replaced, but that is a topic I try to stay away from in my blog.
Much of my life I have spent motivating people. The almost twenty years at Apple spanned the good times, some very difficult days and some of the great years. Once Apple got on a stable footing and my team of people were seasoned veterans, I had a terrible time finding people to plug into arbitrary categories like "Does Not Meet Expectations."
Anyone who has a senior team with very successful careers already on their resumes will find it a Sisyphean task. Telling someone who has done everything you and the corporation have asked them and more that they aren't doing their job well is not a productive task but is often required to get ahead in today's corporations. It is interesting that demoralizing sales employees is actually a strategy that some executives including Apple ones practice.
I found that my senior sales people and engineers with very few exceptions over the years always had more than enough skills that could be used to build a great team. Often team members approached their jobs differently but ended up with the same great results.
If my team had developed a bad attitude, I would have assumed that I failed in my role as a leader. I can remember being the most proud of my team when in one of those situations when they were under the most pressure with the least control of what was happening that they all refrained from complaining in an operations review and only offered positive solutions.
That is not to say that there are not performance problems in corporate teams. I was once parachuted into a new job with the goal of fixing a poorly performing team. I found the team had gone over the edge of no return. They were more interested in complaining than in figuring out how to make things work.
While I tried hard to work with the team, at the end of a year, out of twenty-one people on the team, the only people remaining were my area associate who had followed me to the team, and one person who had worked for me previously on another team. The rest of the people and their attitude that all the problems belonged to someone else were gone.
I hired new people who wanted to work and were willing to accept the challenges that the job presented. It was a dark hour for Apple because almost every business magazine was focused on when Apple would die. Those of us who were leading at Apple at the time did not have time to worry about the company going out of business. We had huge jobs which changed frequently and customers that were upset at the company.
Still it was a great environment to learn how to be a real leader, and I am pleased that my teams which kept evolving went on to be recognized as some of the most successful enterprise sales teams ever at Apple. You want a challenge? Lead a successful enterprise sales team in a company that has publicly said it does not care about your market and is focused on the consumer market.
Yet the people who made up these teams came from very different backgrounds and had very different skills. Because they were willing to work together, they managed to get jobs done that none of them could have accomplished on their own. You can read more about my sales career at Apple in my book, The Pomme Company.
It is interesting that most corporate sales folks will swear that you get the best performance by assigning individual revenue goals to sales people.
That is not what I found in over 30 years of sales management.
I found that really good sales people care more about working together to accomplish something that has never been done before than they do in making a lot more money than the next person on their team.
I think that there is a broader lesson there, if we are just willing to understand what it is. Most people want to be part of something that strives to be worthwhile and appreciated. The people who will really help you get to the next level are motivated by something more than money.
Of course you have to hire people who can focus on the big picture instead of getting lost in the woods, and your leaders have to be ones who can protect their people so that they can focus on their jobs.
None of that is apparently present inside the Beltway. Perhaps that's why all I see when I look there is people who are motivated by funnelling money to their supporters so much that they want to cut food stamps while leaving boatloads of money to support agribusiness. Hungry people don't make good employees.