I found the whole furore with Jesse Ryder a few weeks back an interesting one. Here he is, this ultra talented sportsman with skills most cricket-wannabes would die for, and yet he seems to constantly stand in his own way with his behaviour. In the past five years that he’s been playing professional cricket, there’s been stories of heavy drinking, bar brawls, abusing his coach and an all-round arrogant attitude. In February he reportedly had a big night out, drinking till the early hours of the day the Black Caps were due to start their first test against India. The same day! So this guy seems to be his own worst enemy. Which is ok, so long as it doesn’t impact his performance, right? So long as he’s still hitting those centuries, right? You can put up with whatever behaviour so long as he’s still helping the Black Caps win, right? Well, not really – not in business anyway.
Have you ever had a really talented individual in your team? Someone so smart they’re borderline genius? Mind-boggling good at creative ideas? Or so brilliant at sales that they could sell the entire Tip Top factory to one small igloo of eskimos? Everyone wants talent on their team – it’s these individuals that can elevate your business to the next level. But, here’s the rub: they need to be making the most of their talent AND they need to follow the same rules as the rest of the team. They can’t come in, do a few impressive things and then sit back with their qualifications/successes/contacts and twiddle their thumbs till home-time. It’s demotivating to the rest of the team. It causes resentment and disharmony. Your hard-working team see Clever Charlie, revered for his abilities, cruising in late, long lunching then heading home bang on 5pm, having not contributed a jot to the business. And they see him getting away with it and think ‘Well why should I work so hard?’.
One of my clients had a top salesperson who was ruthless. His sales numbers would blow your mind – he was constantly the top performer in their company – but he’d do it by any means possible. He was a bit of a bully, to tell you the truth. And management ignored his ways and means (nothing illegal, but definitely not ideal) because he was performing – and in a stellar way. But what message did it send to the other sales reps? That fair play, that ethics, that the right way wasn’t appreciated by management – that instead it was all about results. Talk about disheartening. Does that sound similar to the way that Jesse Ryder’s behaviour off the pitch is negated by his performance on it? I wonder how those members of the Black Caps squad who are charged with looking after Jesse on a night out feel – happy to do it or resentful?
I know as a manager it can be hard to manage a talented team member who marches to the beat of their own drum. It can be hard to argue with their results but it is important to take an overall view of their performance. The talented individual may get results, but how does their behaviour fit with your core values? What message does it send your customers/clients? Most importantly, what message does it send your team?
Nothing creates disharmony in the ranks faster than a bad employee. Sort out that rotten fruit asap, before it infects everyone. Sometimes it takes performance management (with new KPIs that encompass more than just monetary results) and sometimes it takes them answering to a new manager. Coaching can work too (I do tons of corporate coaching, if you need help on that front). Most importantly, you can’t just turn a blind eye to bad behaviour, no matter how talented they are. That’s just bad business.