I had a job search in 1988 and finally got an interview for an executive position. I would be 2nd in command to a leader who planned a five year window for retirement. I was flown to Washington and then Philadelphia for interviews. The interviewers stressed that I would have considerable power. What’s not to like about power?

The interviewers admitted that there was one challenge – their current president was scared of one person who reported to him. The staff member was abrasive, had no support of other staff, and criticized his supervisor and peers without hesitation. They were reluctant to say what they wanted, but an unwritten part of the job description was to handle Jorge.

I understood that new direction was needed. I hated to take a new job and fire a well known staff so I suggested in the 2nd interview that they fire the offender and I could come in with a clean mandate to make things better. They were doubtful because ‘Jorge even knows how to deal with the boiler when it breaks.’ They agreed to think about it. I was sure that I had the job. I started looking for housing.

On my birthday, April 20, I got the call I had been waiting for! …… But the call was to tell me that they had chosen another candidate for the job. There is a copper taste in my mouth even as I write this today.

After much reflection, I realized — The real job that I was offered was to fire Jorge (handle him Ron) and I turned it down!

It doesn’t matter how many strategic plans you write. You will fail if you have staff who can’t work the plan or who want the plan to fail.

This is why I focus on 4 questions for success in business:

  1. Do you have a strategic plan that also changes what you do tomorrow?
  2. Do you know how much money you need and how to spend wisely?
  3. Can you keep staff from stealing money after $1 million revenue?
  4. Will you and your staff have the talent and passion to do what you plan to do?

Sometimes, staff changes are slow because of civil service, unions, elections – things outside the manager’s control. The mayor employs many critics that he cannot fire in the Police Department and other union and civil service protected positions.

For most of us, the big reason that we can’t change things is that we are scared of the people who work for us! “In 2009, U.S. companies spent $3.6 billion on “outplacement services” (figuring out whom to fire and how to do it)” (Rogers, Jenny. “Getting the Ax From George Clooney.” Slate Magazine (2010): n. pag. Web.)

Staff transitions are difficult. And it’s always tragic to create chaos with someone’s livelihood and career.

If you have staff that can’t or won’t work your plan, you need to analyze job descriptions, start regular appraisals, and stop being scared. Don’t let anger amplify difficulty. Discern if a problem staff has the respect of others. Don’t ask others to do it for you. And stop being scared!

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