“What took you so long?”
It was the worst feedback I ever received in my career. And it came from someone I managed, not my manager.
I had failed to act. I failed to lead. I didn’t make the tough decision. I thought I was being nice. I thought I was getting results by keeping someone on the payroll who was good at what they did.
I knew they had a bad attitude and could be caustic in their interactions with others. I knew that I, as the manager, sometimes had to be cautious when discussing an issue with them. I saw others had the same issue with this person.
After an especially unpleasant episode, I finally made the decision that this person no longer belonged on the team. They didn’t match the values the company was built on. I let them go.
Within minutes after the decision became known, another team member asked “what took you so long?” Others echoed the same sentiment. They were telling me they agreed with the decision, but in reality, they were teaching me a lesson. Until that moment, I had failed to lead.
Leadership isn’t easy. You have to make tough decisions for the right reasons.
In this case, I put the values of the organization at risk. Businesses can state their values, but if they aren’t exhibited, they don’t mean anything. People will see through them and view it as hypocrisy. It is a cultural disconnect. The real values of any company are the ones they actually exhibit and tolerate, not the ones they state on their website.
What tough decisions are you failing to make right now? Do you have employees who don’t belong on the team? Do you have people in the wrong seat? Do you need to change what you are doing or how it’s done? What will you look back on one day and wish you had taken action?