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You Are The Weakest Link (Not Your Team)

December 21, 2017

I’ve never understood why we use a chain as a metaphore when talking about teams. Chain of command? Sure, that’s a pretty obvious chain. But, a team is more like chainmail, if we need to go with the “linked metal” metaphore. All the pieces depend on all the other pieces. That’s not to say that there cannot be weaknesses in your chainmail.

As managers or team leaders, it’s really tempting for us to identify the weak link, or links. Obviously the weaknesses typically show up when there’s been a breakdown. If there was a screwup, someone is going to notice and generally they want to know what you the team leader, is going to do about it.

Let me start by saying there are times people need to be fired. If an employee steals, or thhreatens another employee. If an employee sexually harrasses another employee or commits a crime, these people often have bigger issues to deal with than their employment. Don’t worry too much about letting these people go. HR will probably force you to regardless.

I’m talking about the times where someone just screwed up. They were supposed to lock up before leaving and didn’t. They were supposed to file paperwork on Monday and they didn’t get it done utnil Wednesday and you missed a deadline because of it.

These are your problems. And I don’t mean the employees are yours therefore their problems are yours. I mean these problems are your problems to fix.

But, Rodney, it was the employee that screwed up, not me. How is this MY problem?

Because, you shouldn’t blame weak links. Being the manager, or the team leader is more than simply running team meetings and approving Personal Time Off (PTO) requests. You are the leader, the coach, the mentor. If something is wrong in your team, it’s your job to fix it.

But you don’t understand, Rodney. I’ve tried coaching. It’s not working.

In that case, the question is which one of you is in the wrong job? If an employee isn’t up to the job, then you owe it to him (or her) and to your company to let them go find something they are good at, or at least competent at. It’s been my experience that most employee failures are a lack of leadership. People work for you to get paid. Let’s not kid ourselves that anyone is at work just because they didn’t really have anything better to do 40 hours per week.

But, as a manager, you need to find how to train and motivate your teams. And it’s not about money. Money is a terrible motivator. For some employees, they respond to praise. Some (much fewer than you would think) respond to repreimands. Some respond to a “fun” atmosphere. Some do best in a quiet corner. It’s your job to know what will work for each employee.

And it’s not going to be the same thing for each of them. You need to figure out what works and then adjust your management style accordingly. If you’ve trained an employee and you’ve used the proper motivation techniques and they still fail to perform to the minimum requirements of their job? It’s time to give them opportunities eleswhere.

So, if there’s a problem with an employee, it’s either a training issue, a motivation issue, or they are in the wrong job. These are all three factors that you, as the manager have 100% control over. So, if your team is underperforming, YOU are the weakest link.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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