Buy-in vs. performance

By - Last modified: April 5, 2012 at 1:23 PM

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Bob and John work in the same office. They do the same job, wear similar suits and to the outside eye (ostensibly), have similar trappings of success.

That's where the comparisons end.

Month after month, John is hailed as a rainmaker. Even during the economic malaise of the last few years, his numbers continued to be multiples of everyone else's. His customer base certainly ebbed and flowed but it continued on an upward trajectory. He spoke positively about the company, was consistently prospecting, serving his clients and ever mindful of new ways to build his business. He remained upbeat, people wanted to work with him and his peers admired, if not envied, him.

Bob. Not so much.

The growth of Bob's roster of customers was flat. While nowhere near John's performance, he still was at the higher end of the office performance roster. However, his general lack of enthusiasm in the company was manifest. He complained about the company. He complained about management. He complained about the products. He complained about the company's strategy. Bob was distracted with unrelated ventures that occupied his time and mind space both during and after the work day. He had devolved into Eeyore and nothing anyone tried could bring him back.

What now?

Leaders have long wrestled with the dilemma of "buy-in" versus "performance." It doesn't have to be difficult. Both are critical. Both contribute to long-term success — or decline. Decisions can be made by looking at how much of each are present in an individual.

The easiest decision is what to do with those that demonstrate "high buy-in/high performance." That's John from above. Celebrate them. Promote them. Challenge them. They believe in the company, its mission, and they contribute real numbers to the success of that mission. Devote training dollars to this group and make it visible. Their success will attract others like them and the company's reputation as a place top talent will grow.

The other easy? "Low buy-in/low performance." These people neither believe in the company culture nor contribute in a positive, meaningful way. They complain a lot, are argumentative, and their numbers are consistently substandard to poor. Fire them. Today.

Now we come to the harder parts: "high buy-in/low performance." These are folks that demonstrate they are on board with what the company is trying to accomplish and support its cultural values. The problem is that their performance is not up to snuff — yet. With these folks we have to dig deeper. Are they in the right job within the company according to their skill sets? Have they been trained effectively? Do they know how to deliver the performance expected of them? This group gets a temporary reprieve while we address any of the issues that we just uncovered. They're given a "time to cure" through management intervention and training and, because of their attitude, there is a high probability that they will develop into the "high buy-in/high performance" variety.

So we've arrived at the hardest: "low buy-in/high performance." This is Bob. What about Bob? The typical argument is that you keep him — after all, his numbers aren't awful. He's performing. Let's try to "fix" him with a promotion, training or his own office. This is a mistake.

Bob has to be fired.

Why? Simple. How many cancer cells would you allow to exist in your body? Not one because they multiply and metastasize. They start to impact the other cells. If we look at the most successful organizations, they have a common mission, culture and value structure in which people deeply believe and of which they are proud to be affiliated. Team members perform not just for their customers but for their peers, their managers, their investors, themselves!

Another amazing thing happens when you fire the "low buy-in/high performance" players: Performance of the entire team goes up. Morale goes up. Respect for management's integrity goes up. Congratulations, John!

Sorry, Bob.

Patrick Morin is the president and COO of BrightHammer, a team of experts that work directly with company leaders nationwide to develop and implement sales strategy, deliver targeted sales training and effect sales-oriented culture changes. Email him here, or follow him on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn.

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