I heard from a client who had just complained at length about someone, “Well, that’s just George.” This is one of the most common ways to dodge responsibility. Sigh, shrug and insist that the situation cannot be improved.

In this case, I was asking about why someone is allowed to continue to be a human speed bump (the nickname given to him by colleagues.) This person prevents progress, shows little respect for his colleagues and regardless of how many times someone speaks to him about it, he continues to be a problem.

So, what is the issue here? Is it George? No. At one time it looked that way but now, it’s George’s boss.

By keeping this guy around, his boss is saying, “I don’t care that he slows down our work, makes us look bad to our clients, irritates everyone and makes me look ineffective.” Of course, no one says this out loud and they probably don’t mean it, but that’s the message.

Maybe someone gets George gets a coach. This is a bad idea.

The biggest cause of coaching failures is that it is the wrong intervention.

How about, “Let’s talk to him again and we’ll mean it this time!” Again, wrong intervention. Someone who has been reinforced for bad behavior isn’t going to change because you are now, officially, mad. However, they will get defensive, angry and resentful. After all, things were fine all these years. Why so upset now? I’ve been here so long (insinuation that tenure is, on its own, valuable.)

You’ve heard it all. Why settle for this? People settle because they lack courage.

Here are the effects:

  • Killing motivation. Diligent, reliable people in your company will loose motivation. Great performers are self-motivated, something you must select for, but can’t provide. That said, you could weaken their motivation by making bad decisions.
  • Your reputation as a leader is tarnished.
  • The lesson that “mediocrity is ok” gets through loud and clear. The less motivated people are comforted and the best will leave.

Most leaders have something in their organization that needs to change. Something that is within their power to change but they haven’t done it…yet. If you have something that needs your courageous intervention, make the commitment to act. Plan it and do it. If not now, when?

Courage is contagious-people get it from their leaders. Be that leader.