// Six Steps to Getting the 'Wrong' Person Off the Bus

by Donna Hutchinson

In the classic book Good to Great, Jim Collins says, ‘...to build a successful organisation and team you must get the right people on the bus’. His research shows that great companies and organisations do this. Not only do they get the right people on the bus, but they put them in the right seats. If you follow this successful business philosophy, you’ll inevitably be faced with the dilemma of having to get the occasional ‘wrong’ person off the bus.

While it’s great to concentrate on finding the right people, sometimes we make a hiring mistake or inherit the wrong people – how many of us have found ourselves with a diva on our hands whose presence has been a constant source of unrest for the other team members? When you desperately want to make some changes, how do you get those problem staff to either change seats or get off the bus? The following steps will help you make the switch or usher the wrong people off your bus:

1. Understand your role.
2. Reign in your emotions.
3. Identify the problem.
4. Provide an opportunity for change.
5. Set clear expectations and establish rewards/consequences.
6. Set them free.

1. Understand your role

Understand that it’s your responsibility as a manager, supervisor or owner to ensure everyone within your organisation is the right fit for the job they are hired to do. It’s also your responsibility to quickly rectify the situation if you have people who aren’t fitting in, have performance issues or are disruptive to the team. If you don’t take swift action to remove a member of the team who isn’t the right fit, your staff will soon take notice and wonder why nothing is being done. To make matters worse, top performers will be turned off by people who don’t perform. They will soon become frustrated with your lack of leadership and start looking for another job.

2. Reign in your emotions

Teams work best when everyone contributes. If you have an individual who has a ‘What’s in it for me’ attitude then chances are they aren’t working as part of the group. You’ve probably spent countless hours trying to work with them to change their attitude and have become frustrated, upset and angry that they aren’t making any progress. If this is the case, take a step back and grab hold of your emotions. There’s no place for emotions such as anger, disappointment or frustration. It’s time to roll up your sleeves and get down to business. The bottom line is that you have identified an individual who is not meeting standards set by the organisation and there’s nothing emotional about it.

3. Identify the problem

What is the problem you are facing with that particular employee? Is it that they don’t come to meetings, are not attaining their revenue goals or are they disruptive to the team? Ensure that you identify the exact problem or behaviour you need to address and how it conflicts with your company culture. Gather as much information as possible about what’s happening and why they may be struggling to meet expectations.

4. Provide an opportunity for change

Once you have identified the problem or behaviour, give the individual an opportunity to make a change. For example, if Brittany hasn’t been attending regular staff meetings, inform her that part of her role within the company is to attend monthly meetings. Explain the function of meetings and their relevance to your company culture. Then advise Brittany that she is expected to be at the next meeting.

5. Set clear expectations and establish rewards/consequences

In Brittany’s case you need to be firm about her attending meetings. Explain the circumstances where it might be okay for her to miss a meeting such as a doctor’s appointment or childcare issue. Then document the discussion and ask Brittany to sign it, acknowledging that she has understood her commitment.

If the following month Brittany does not attend the meeting and does not provide a valid reason, schedule a follow-up appointment. Give her an opportunity to explain her situation and seek to understand why she may be struggling to do this part of her job. If she cannot provide a valid reason then you may wish to consider whether Brittany is someone you would like to have on your team for the long-term. Take this opportunity to let Brittany know that the meetings are so important that if she chooses not to attend you would have no choice but to find a replacement for her. On the surface this may seem rather a harsh consequence for non-attendance of a meeting, but is it? Or is her persistent missing of meetings a symptom of a deeper issue? What if Brittany decides she doesn’t want to show up on time for her clients, gym floor duty or class? Would you tolerate that behaviour? While these may seem like more serious offences, failing to show for meetings sends the wrong message to others on the team who are taking the time to attend.

6. Set them free

The hardest task faced by any manager is finding the courage to let people go. We feel emotions such as guilt, sadness, disappointment or frustration. You may even feel bad about letting them go because you know they have a family to support, bills to pay or are struggling to make ends meet. While I’m not suggesting you be cold-hearted and ignore those emotions, I am suggesting that you may want to consider that you are actually helping that individual by being honest about expectations. Sometimes people are afraid to move on in their careers or jobs because of the fear of the unknown. If they were happy working within your organisation then they would make every effort to change their situation for the positive. The simple fact of the matter is, at this point in the process your employee hasn’t shown enough, or any, improvement. So, you are making the decision to set them free for the betterment of the team.

Creating the ultimate performance team is a lot of hard work. It needs constant attention, sorting and weeding out of people who don’t fit. Everyone within the team should want to contribute their best efforts and help to elevate everyone else. Individuals should never be allowed to bring the team down. If you have anyone on your team who continually acts or speaks negatively about your organisation on a regular basis and doesn’t seek to improve the situation through proactive positive feedback, then I suggest you usher them off the bus before their negative attitude influences the other members of your team.


Donna Hutchinson
Donna is a fitness business coach and author of the How To Guide To Starting Your Own Personal Training Business and The How To Guide To Growing Your Own Personal Training Business. She has over eighteen years’ industry experience and travels the world speaking to audiences about how to grow and develop their businesses. You can contact Donna at www.edgefit.ca


NETWORK • SUMMER 2009
• PP53-52