At 5 am, the dog barks at the burros wandering down the street outside our hotel. Again, at 5:20, and every 20 minutes thereafter until we got up. Cindy, the owner of the Atomic Inn in Beatty, NV, (just outside Death Valley National Park) described the burros as a feral invasive species. I called them a very cute nuisance.
The burros are overpopulated and starving, she said, and they have eaten all the trees, the ice plant, shrubs and anything else they can find. At times, I feel like some people are like that. I was asked this week why bosses tolerate mid-level or senior managers who drive good performers away. Everyone turned and looked at me and waited for a profound answer. I searched my brain and had to admit I didn’t know. Someone joked that the “offender” had a video tape of the big boss in a compromising situation.
As I thought about it, I suggested that some people are really good at managing up and rather bad at managing their team. Their peers and upper levels see a very different person. They usually do one thing exceptionally well that is extremely valuable to the company. Managing teams is not their strength. Given how hard it is to create a great culture and retain good people, the leadership team needs to face into their reluctance to address these issues.
How can you avoid driving high performers away? Many companies do regular anonymous surveys of their teams to see problems before they get this bad. That would address the not knowing. HR Departments often know but are told to stand down by top management. 360 assessments are effective tools for seeing how the team feels. The good news is that people can get better with some coaching.
Of course you can choose to keep accommodating the feral invasive species in your company – just as the people of Beatty are dealing with the burros. After all, the burros are very cute. Your problem people….not so much.