Saturday, March 10, 2007

Working with a Failing Star

I read the following article in Sales & Marketing Managment magazine and immediately thought of its relevance to retail. Here is the article:

It's a problem you're likely to face at some point in your management career: A talented rep joins the team, only to reveal poor working habits and a bad attitude. Do you fire the rep? Try to change him? Rick Pitino (basketball coach, author, speaker) faced this dilemma with Derrick Caracter, a freshman this year who, talent-wise, was considered one of the top few recruits in the nation. But it was well-known that Caracter had a lazy streak. For that reason, Pitino never pursued him, but when Caracter asked to play for Louisville, the coach accepted him conditionally.

"I pointed out all the consequences of being late to class, and I told him the consequences of not working hard," Pitino says. "I told him what our program was about and he said he was buying into it. He's a terrific young man but the unfortunate thing is old habits are tough to break."

Indeed, Caracter found it hard to change and in late December, Pitino asked him to take a break from the team. "I realized that he was not part of this team, he exuded too much negative energy and not enough positive energy," Pitino says. "I sent him home and said… 'if you want to come back I'm going to make you sign a contract. If you violate it you will immediately be suspended and I'm going to work with you because we're going to try and change you.' " Caracter quickly violated two parts of his contract, the terms of which Pitino keeps private, and Pitino showed him to the bench.

"If he was in the corporate world he would immediately be fired," Pitino says. "But here you're dealing with a young person who you're trying to help in life, so you've got to go as far as you can go." In early February, Caracter still had the opportunity to come back if he met the contract terms, but Pitino says that all depended on the player: "The one thing I explained to Derrick before he broke this contract, is once you break this contract it's not me suspending you. If you violate any of these things that you've agreed to, then you're suspending yourself, it's not me."

Asked if it was worth giving up a talented player in the lineup in order to adhere to principles about effort, Pitino says, "When someone says 'your team really worked hard,' to me that's not a compliment. You're supposed to work hard. If your team doesn't work hard, then you don't have a team. That's your common denominator."

I have encountered many retail managers and owners who ignore substandard performance of a key employee because they are afraid of losing sales or having the employee quit and go to a competitor or because the store is short-staffed. However, ignoring this situation adversely affects your ENTIRE team. It is critical to summon up the courage and deal directly with this person's performance even if it means the consequences will be somewhat painful. Those consequences are usually short-lived while the impact of NOT taking action can be felt for a long period of time.

If you are interested in learning more about motivating emplyees, register for my upcoming tele-seminar, "Secrets to Motivating Your Retail Team" scheduled for June 12th. You can get details here.


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