3 Reasons We Don’t Fire Poor Performers

three wise monkeys

What is the biggest mistake you’ve ever made in the area of leading people?

The number one answer, according to a report by Ram Charan, Consultant and former Harvard Business School professor, is “waiting too long to remove a direct report who wasn’t matched to the job.”

I made that mistake as a first time manager at the YMCA. I had a swim instructor who was wonderful and got rave reviews from all the parents, but he had a reliability problem. The YMCA was in Bloomington, IN during the reign of Bobby Knight, and you could count on the fact that anytime there was a basketball game or a concert, he wouldn’t show up for lifeguarding shifts. I gave him lots of chances before I finally let him go. When I did, the other staff all thought my boss had prevented me from firing him. That wasn’t the case. The reluctance to fire him was my fault. I lacked the managerial courage to do what needed to be done.

There are three reasons that we justify not firing people who aren’t a fit.

  1. I can fix them. We rationalize that with enough coaching, or discussions, or encouragement, they’ll turn it around. While that is a noble approach, it soon becomes apparent when they can’t be “fixed”.
  2. Better the devil I know than the one I don’t. This was my reasoning. It was hard to find great instructors, so I lived with his faults until I got too frustrated. I was afraid I wouldn’t find anyone as good at teaching as he was. That fear should have been a clue – and has now become a sign that I need to step back and reflect on the situation.
  3. He/she isn’t really hurting the team. I can also own this one. I didn’t understand the negative impact his behavior and my failure to hold him accountable was having on my team. Once the young man was released, team morale improved over time. Staff began to trust that everyone would be held accountable – equally.

Leaders of integrity set high expectations, work with staff to achieve those expectations, and hold ALL staff accountable for their work. They also quickly move to replace people who aren’t a fit, and they hire someone who has a high level of competence, character, and interpersonal skills.

As a first time manager, that lesson about holding employees accountable was a powerful one and has paid huge benefits in every position I’ve held since then.

  • How’s your managerial courage?
  • Is there one or more of these three reasons holding you back from doing what you know must be done?

Saying NO to your iPhone


Technology Overload

Does this look like one of your workdays? You are at your desk, facing two computer screens. On one, the internet is open to do research, and the other screen has one of your four email accounts open (the other three notify you when a message arrives). You also have text messaging active, along with Google chat, in case someone at the office needs to connect. Around your neck is an LG Bluetooth stereo headset, ready for the next call that comes in on your iPhone; and iTunes is running in the background. Buried in the middle of all this technology is a project you are working on that’s due tomorrow. You’ve been working on it all week and just aren’t making the progress you thought you would, despite your skill in multi-tasking.

Turns out, research proves you can’t multi-task. John Medina writes, in Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home and School, that we are “biologically incapable of processing attention-rich inputs simultaneously.”  Four steps must occur in your brain every time you switch from one task to another. It is time-consuming, and that’s why we find ourselves losing track of where we were and having to ‘start over.’ When you are interrupted, studies show that it takes 50% longer to complete a task, and you are likely to make up to 50% more errors.

I found myself experiencing real frustration over my work-life balance and technology in December of 2012. I was surviving instead of thriving.  That’s when I picked up Medina’s book and figured out I had to build some boundaries around technology. I wanted my life back.

Here are seven choices I made that helped me set strong boundaries.

  1. I turn off iTunes, notifications for email and messages, and Google chat whenever I have a project to complete, a blog to write, or a training to design. I now get it done in half the time.
  2. I don’t check email after 7 pm in the evening. Too many nights I’ve laid awake upset by an email that could have waited until morning.
  3. I only check email 2 – 3 times a day, and I have no email notifications of any kind operating on my iPhone. This enables to spend quality time on the person I’m with or project I’m designing.
  4. I say NO to my iPhone.  I usually don’t answer the phone when I’m with someone else, and I don’t use it in a checkout line. Face-to-face contact is precious.
  5. Sundays and vacations are days of rest from technology. I may talk to someone on the phone, but I rarely check or respond to email. This is huge, as it strengthens the other boundaries you’ve set around technology.
  6. I stopped trying to “do” Twitter. I have an account and enjoy tweeting to help a speaker or presenter; but, too many times, I found myself setting things up at 8 pm.
  7. When I first started blogging, I was told I had to do it 2 – 3 times a week in order to build a following. Now I write 5 – 6 times a year—and only when I think what I’m writing will benefit others.

Do you want your life back? Would you like to thrive in our 24/7 world?  I encourage you to start small and set 1 or 2 boundaries around the technology in your life. You’ll find your relationships become richer, your sleep more refreshing, and your free time will really be free.

Perspective Challenging Books

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I love to read, and usually alternate between business books and what I call “Nancy” books. Nancy books are fun—authors like Baldacci and Grisham—but rarely enlightening.   About 3 months into 2015, I realized a theme was emerging in the books I chose. The vast majority of the books gave me a glimpse into a world I knew almost nothing about. They challenged my perspective and increased my understanding of others. So, here are my favorite reads of 2015. I hope you find they challenge your perspective and deepen your respect for others.

Between Two Worlds: Escape from Tyranny, by Zainab Salbi

Zainab Salbi is the daughter of the man chosen to be Saddam Hussein’s personal pilot. Her story of growing up under Saddam’s tyranny and her attempt to escape that tyranny in America—only to find another form here—is heart wrenching and eye opening. Her courage in speaking out through this book is deeply moving and inspiring.

Slave Hunter: Freeing Victims of Human Trafficking, by Aaron Cohen and Christine Buckley

Aaron Cohen goes to some of the darkest places on our planet to expose traffickers and to free men and women who have been sold into sex slavery. How he went from rock star to slave hunter is an enthralling and painful story of perseverance and commitment.

Crossing the Tracks for Love: What to Do When You and Your Partner Grew Up in Different Worlds, by Ruby K. Payne

This is one of the most practical books that I read. Payne’s insights into the mindsets of economic class differences in the United States (poverty, middle class, wealthy) were fascinating—and ones I was able to apply. While written for someone who is contemplating marrying into another class, the principles and perspectives are applicable for teachers, coaches, business people, and others whose daily interactions cross economic classes.

The Nazi Officer’s Wife: How One Jewish Woman Survived the Holocaust, by Edith H. Beer and Susan Dworkin

Edith Beer’s peaceful early years were smashed to pieces when she was shipped to a slave labor camp as the Nazi’s rolled into her beloved Austria. From a hated Jewess, this story of her engagement and marriage to a Nazi officer in Munich is one of paralyzing fear, submission, and determination. You will be both repelled by the evil she was subjected to and drawn to this strong woman of courage.

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity, by Nabeel Quereshi

This beautifully written book is a powerful glimpse into a devout, loving Muslim home and the foundations of the Muslim faith. Quereshi grew up challenging the faith of Christians and finding no one who could answer his challenges. When he joined the debate team at Georgetown University, he met a fellow debate team student who could answer his challenges and engage in lively, deep theological discussions. This book will challenge your perspectives of both Islam and Christianity.

The Devil in Pew Number Seven, by Rebecca Nichols Alonzo, with Bob DeMoss

This is an amazing story of hatred, terror, love, and forgiveness. Rebecca Nichols’ father accepted a position as pastor of a small church in North Carolina, only to encounter a man who wanted complete control of the church. When the man couldn’t get the power and control he desired, he terrorized the Nichols family in unimaginable ways. Despite the violence and hatred they endured, as well as the fear and dread they were constantly under, her parents chose to stay and love the community. And, although Rebecca’s life was shattered by the devil in Pew No. 7, her story of healing, forgiveness, and courage will bring tears to your eyes.

35 Days without Email


It’s said that over 400,000,000 vacation days are wasted annually. Combine that with the numbers of people who keep up with email on vacation, and something’s out of whack!

“I am on a 35-day trip celebrating our 35th anniversary. I will not be checking email or reading any email that comes in during that time. Please email me after August 17th, and I’ll connect with you then.”

I posted that out-of-office message on July 13th, this year, and that’s exactly what I did. I actually deleted my account from my iPhone and then deleted all emails that had come in while I was gone without reading them. I knew if I didn’t do that, I’d cheat and look at them while on vacation in order to avoid the hundreds that would be in my inbox. Our director of business operations was a contact in case of an emergency. I trusted her judgment completely on whether or not to contact me. The need never arose.

Going for 35 days without email had some wonderful benefits:

1) In really getting away from the daily flow of work, I slept better and had absolutely no physical symptoms of stress during the time away.

2) My husband and I had real quality time together, with deeper conversations and no sense of hurry or stress as we traveled.

3) I came back totally refreshed and ready to dive back into work. My ability to listen was strengthened, and my problem solving was much more effective.

4) I serve on the prayer team at church, and my prayers for others and myself were more energized and focused.

Was there a cost? Only one client chose to hire someone else rather than wait for my return. I’m okay with that, because the benefits I experienced far outweighed the costs.

Whenever I share doing this, I get two reactions—disbelief and envy. The envy comes from the wish they could do it, too; and the disbelief comes from the fact that they’re not sure it can really be done.

I’m here to testify that it can be done, and the ROI is great!

1 trip to Osh Kosh, Black Hills, Yellowstone, and the Grand Tetons—Lovely
5,000 miles in a Roadtrek—Cozy
1 formidable hailstorm—Scary
1.3 million motorcycles (Sturgis 75th rally)—Noisy
35 days without email—Priceless!

5 Questions Lead to a Strong Business Mission Statement

JFKGuest blog by Joshua MacLeod , CEO, Riverbirch Industries

A mission helps you achieve your vision.  The following questions are designed as a guide to help you craft a mission statement for your business.

Mission Question 1 – What is your function to society: How do others classify your business?

The Apollo mission was a government program but her primary function was to boost business growth. The competition to create a better rocket inspired countless numbers of scientists and engineers to develop new technologies driving innovation and boosting the U.S. economy. The following lists may help categorize your business function.

A business might be formed around basic necessities such as:

  • Food, Water, Shelter, Clothes, Medicine, Justice

or cultural spheres such as:

  • Family, Religion, Education, Media communications. Celebration (Arts & Entertainment),, Economy (Innovation, Science, Technology, Productivity, Sales, Service)

Entrepreneurs need to be careful not to exaggerate the uniqueness of their product. Even if your product is building a rocket that goes to the moon and back, it still provides a basic function to society such as boosting business growth.

Mission Question 2 – Who is your target customer? Who is most deeply impacted by the goods or service you provide?

The race with the Soviet Union provided motivation for an entire generation of entrepreneurs to work hard, be creative and attempt great things for their countries. For President Kennedy however, this race had a target customer. Whereas putting a man on the moon was a big step for mankind, it was a giant leap for America. The program developed circuit board technology that would be later used in computers. It produced satellite technology that would later become GPS. America had a technological revolution. The U.S. invested ten times more into the space program than Russia and it paid off. Remembering your target customer will greatly boost your business.

Mission Question 3 – What problem does your mission solve?What is the need that your product or service addresses?

President Kennedy’s speech that cumulated in a quest for a lunar landing began with a rally for freedom. “These are extraordinary times. And we face an extraordinary challenge. Our strength as well as our convictions have imposed upon this nation the role of leader in freedom’s cause.” Mr. Kennedy painted a picture of growing hostility from the Soviet Union and the steps necessary to retain an economic and military edge. It’s always important to remind your customer of the problem before you offer a solution.

The space program was more than an adventure; it was a symbol of advancement. No one wanted a war. Here was an opportunity to show the resolve of the American people without a conflict. Reminding the American people of the problem created the synergy necessary to motivate the American people to buy into President Kennedy’s solution.

Mission Question 4 – What are your benefits? What makes your product or service unique and how does it improve your customer’s life?

It is often that case that a business owner will highlight the many features of his or her product rather than the benefits the features create. When the Apollo 11 sent a man to the moon and back, the American people were not talking about how the rocket contained a Saturn 5 liquid cooled three-stage launch vehicle; they were talking about how they beat the Russians. The features of your product are only interesting to a customer when they produce a helpful result. Being able to list a benefit for every feature of your product or service is an important step in growing your business.

Mission Question 5 – How do you measure results? Are you doing the right things? What are the tangible outcomes for your efforts?

As Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stuck an American flag in the moon, an estimated 600 million people watched on television. Mission accomplished! The symbol for freedom was complete and the world was watching. This event was one of the many ways that the American people would measure their accomplishment. Additional measurements would include financial growth in business and technology sectors.

One of the best management thinkers of our time Peter Drucker states: “What’s measured improves”. If a goal doesn’t have anything to measure it cannot be achieved. All businesses need to measure the result of their mission. 600 million people watching an American flag placed on the moon is not a bad return on investment.

What is your mission?

Once you consider these five questions you can begin working on your mission statement. A mission statement is simply a summary of your thoughts when considering these questions. Mission statements will look as different as the organizations they represent. They should reflect your function to society, your target customer, problems solved, benefits and how you measure results. Your mission statement should not be long. A good goal is to have your mission statement able to be written in 140 characters or less (something you can tweet).

Here is a template to get you started:

  • Our mission is to provide this function to society:
  • Benefiting this target customer:
  • Solving this problem:
  • Providing these benefits:
  • Toward this result:

A further helpful exercise is to develop a tag from your mission statement. A tag is an even shorter summary or slogan for your company that can be stated in 10 words or less.

If you have a completed mission statement for your business, please post in the comments of this blog with a link to your business.

In my next blog I will discuss creating value statements for your organization.You can sign up to receive our monthly newsletter by sending an email to Joshua@plantabusiness.net

This article is designed to help you grow a creative, sustainable and impactful organization. I hope you find it helpful. If you want even better wisdom for your business, remember that wisdom has a source. James 1:5

Accomplish More by Doing Less – Part 2

Hare and Tortoise 001

When I wrote about my struggle to accomplish more by doing less last month, I struck a cord for a lot of you. One reader shared this: “I travel almost weekly. To catch flights I’m up many mornings around 4 am. Last night I arrived home at 10:30 pm. The easiest thing to give up is my “quiet time” for prayer, reading or meditation or exercise…all of which I need to stay healthy and productive.”

It is a hard struggle to shut down the years of a performance driven life and to willfully choose to live your life in a way that has greater benefits – for both yourself and for those you lead. So, if you’d like to accomplish more by doing less – here are the 4 choices I made that enabled me to live with margin in my life.

1) Determine your true north, figuring out what is most important to you. It forms your “rules of engagement” with the world. Check out my 2011 blog on that topic.  Finding Your ‘True North’

2) Once you define true north, do a cost benefit analysis of your current activities. It involves four questions to ask yourself before you say “YES”.  4 Prioritization Questions

3) Answer this question around focus. What good things will you not do so you can do great things? One of the best business books ever written is the Aesop fable “The Tortoise and The Hare”. The tortoise wins a race he should never have won by simply keeping his eye on the finish line.

4) Master your fears. As you start to focus and make intentional choices, fear (false expectations assumed real) will raise its ugly head. “What if” questions will start rattling around your brain.
• What if…clients see me as withdrawing (or even lazy)?
• What if…I focus on the wrong thing?
• What if… I fail?
• What if… what if…what if?
The truth is, fear is the great dream thief. If we let our fears govern our choices, we will never know what we could have done. I remember the day in 2006 when I decided to leave a 20-year career and go into business for myself. I was petrified and sure I’d fail. “What if” questions often swamped my mind. Now, almost 9 years later, I look back and see those fears for what they were – false expectations assumed real.

If we face fear, embrace fear, and master fear, we can do anything we want.

We can accomplish more by doing less.

We can live with integrity.

Accomplish More by Doing Less

Painting by Deborah Gall

Painting by Deborah Gall

2012 was my “Hurricane Sandy” year.   Business trips found me in the United Kingdom twice and spanning the continental US from California to Texas to Virginia all before September 1st. My husband and I both agreed I was on the road too much and started praying to have more clients located closer to the Nashville area. October of that year found me boarding a plane to fly in to New York   and work with a client as Hurricane Sandy approached.   The night the hurricane made landfall found me training in a circle of candlelight – punctuated by loud explosions and blue lightshows of transformers blowing up outside the window. Stuck in New York for a few days with time to reflect, I decided to take 30 days off at the end of the year to rest and reflect on what was most important in my life. I asked God to teach me His ways.

Toward the end of the 30 days, I read a phrase in Jesus Calling – “If you live this way, you will do less but accomplish far more.” Oh, how I wanted that, but didn’t have a clue what it looked like or how to get there. Fast-forward 2 years and 3 months and I can honestly say I’m accomplishing more by doing less.

For a type A, goal oriented professional like me, getting here has been a struggle. About a year in to my learning curve, I mentioned to my husband how I was working smarter with less hours – and his response was “Yeah, right!”   He lovingly helped me see that as I built boundaries around my work, I also said yes to more volunteer opportunities. I might have been “working less”, but I wasn’t “doing less”. He was right!

I struggled greatly with feeling non-productive and lazy (still do sometimes). Those feelings forced me to look at the truth. I WAS accomplishing more, making a difference, and still having time for family, friends and fun. I had to learn to set boundaries, counting the cost of saying yes. I had to overcome the lie that I needed to do more—work harder—in order to have worth.

There’s been a three-fold benefit in accomplishing more by doing less.

  • I have space in my life. When a unique opportunity comes along, I can say yes because I’m not overwhelmed. This happened in 2014 when I was asked to be a mentor for Miral Dera from Egypt as part of the Laura Bush Women’s Initiative.
  • The quality of my work has deepened. More fruit is evident from coaching, teaching, training, speaking.
  • Peace has been a wonderful blessing. In a 24/7 world that seems to constantly spin faster, an unhurried pace of living – the ability to accomplish more by doing less – brings a deep peace in the midst of the chaos of life. The ways of God are breathtaking.


Next month I’ll be writing about the first and second steps to

accomplishing more and doing less. Stay tuned!

NPR’s Continued Lack of Integrity

Last night NPR called me a “low knowledge” voter.   They might as well have used the word “stupid” or “unintelligent”. The commentators were reviewing Paul Ryan’s speech, and reviewing the many “falsehoods” it contained.  NPR pointed out that he criticized President Obama for inaction on the Bowles/Simpson commission report.  Fox News had interviewed Ryan who said he voted against Bowles Simpson because it didn’t address entitlements.   NPR also pointed out that Ryan criticized the closing of a plant in Janesville, WI and blamed Mr. Obama, even though the plant had closed under President Bush.    Ryan in his interview on Fox acknowledged the closing under Bush, but said candidate Obama had stood in the plant and promised it would be open for 100 years with the help of the government.

NPR’s analysis was so strongly one-sided  that they said the only people Ryan’s speech would appeal to would be “low knowledge voters” – those who didn’t bother to analyze the issues.  One commentator even said that if you wanted to counteract Paul Ryan’s case on Medicare to these voters you would need to simply say he intended to abolish Medicare.  Which,  of course,  is not Ryan’s latest proposal on Medicare.

I have made it a habit to listen to both NPR and Fox News. I get two very different perspectives on issues and then have the opportunity to weigh the information I’ve heard.  I used to teach a class on critical thinking at Belmont University and have written a book on the topic.   I make it a practice to look at both sides of an issue, explore the facts, then run my analysis through my values and make a decision.  My values include fiscal responsibility.  That is the piece NPR is missing.  That any voter could actually be intelligent and vote for Romney/Ryan seems to be beyond their comprehension.

During the Juan Williams debacle in 2010, NPR was accused of not being objective.  They asked for listeners to share with them times they hadn’t presented both sides of a story.  In one segment, a listener joined them and shared his perspective of their biased journalism, and the interviewer couldn’t wrap his brain around the concept that he hadn’t been fair.

Last night NPR not only was blatantly pro-Obama and offensive , they lacked integrity.  If they claim to be objective, they should walk the talk.  Giving both sides of the story would have been the right thing to do.   Take it from a “high knowledge” voter.

Integrity & the Hatfield-McCoy Feud

Have you ever wondered how a choice you made around integrity could affect the future?  The History Channel recently ran a mini-series called Hatfields & McCoys.  It’s the story of a family feud that spanned decades and resulted in death, destruction, and nearly caused a war between Kentucky and West Virginia.   As portrayed on the History Channel, Anderson “Devil Anse” Hatfield, serving as a Confederate captain,  made a choice to desert and return home.   Was it a choice of integrity?  He certainly thought so, since his family was more important than keeping his promise in the midst of a losing war.  Yet, he went back on his word.  Randall McCoy, serving on the same battlefield as Hatfield, chose to honor his word.  The battle was lost and McCoy went to a Union prison for several years.  When the war was over, he was released and came home to find Hatfield prospering and having suffered no consequences for desertion,  and what McCoy considered a lack of integrity.   The murder of a McCoy union soldier by a Hatfield, sparked a series of increasingly violent acts between the families.   Bitterness and rage influenced their choices over the next years as the feud spiraled out of control.

Yet the core of the controversy came down to a choice – one that lacked integrity.  We’ll never know if Randall McCoy would have been as vengeful if Anderson Hatfield has not deserted.  But it give us pause and the opportunity to consider the consequences of not keeping our word.   When has a lack of integrity caused massive consequences?

–          World.com accountants who wrote letters of resignation when asked to falsify the books, then proceed to do so and told no one.   World.com no  longer exists.

–          John Edwards didn’t honor his marriage vows, lied before the press and voters.  While not convicted, his name is mud.

–          Steve McNair, former Titan quarterback, violated his marriage vows with numerous affairs – the final one resulting in death.

–          Creflo Dollar is in the news having been arrested.  If it turns out his daughter lied when she called police at 1 am, what are the potential consequences on the family?  What relationships become broken, trust destroyed?  T hat’s how family feuds begin.

Integrity matters.

Honor & Respect vs. You Suck

My husband and I stopped at a restaurant on the way to Indiana last week.  While we were eating, we saw a man sitting at a nearby table wearing a black T-shirt with huge yellow letters declaring to the world “YOU SUCK”.   It seemed to be a statement on how many people view others these days.  Instead of respecting and honoring one another, we get in their face and disrespect them.

Respect is showing regard for the worth of someone regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, faith or sexual orientation.  Respect doesn’t diminish a person for any reason.  The best description of respect that I’ve ever heard came from Dave Buehring, founder and CEO of Lionshare Leadership.  He says there are three reasons we honor and respect one another.

1) Honor and respect due to performance – we earn this and recognize what a person has done or achieved.

2) Honor due to character and integrity – this is also earned and recognizes who the person is in character and that can be trusted to do what they say they will do

3) Honor and respect due to a person’s intrinsic value and worth.  This respect is given and not earned.  It recognizes each human being’s worth in the sight of God.  Because we are made in His image, and have had the priceless blood of Jesus shed for them, they are worth of honor and respect.*

What a different viewpoint from “You Suck”.   The truth is all people matter, no matter what.  What a different place our world would be if we practiced respect and honor.  Who lives this better than anyone you know – who shows honor, courtesy, respect to everyone in their life?

*Information in italics was adapted from the writings of Dave Buehring