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A Greatly Needed Void March 25, 2009

Posted by Chuck Musciano in Leadership.
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Many years ago, an email circulated with clever lines from back-handed letters of “recommendation.”  One brought a smile to my face and has stuck with me to this day:

He fills a greatly needed void.

What a perfect description of the deadwood in your organization!

Leaders often spend a lot of time worrying about the thin spots in their teams.  These days, especially, we are all stretched thin and trying to keep things running with reduced staffs and resources.  Without a deep bench, the loss of one or two key people could really be a problem for us. As a result, we focus on filling voids: plugging people into open positions to make sure that everything is covered.  Those voids represent risk and exposure, and its our job to reduce both.

Perhaps we should spend a little more time looking to create some voids.  While eliminating people is unpleasant and painful, our teams always benefit from a little housecleaning.  Not only do you eliminate people that were not contributing, you improve the morale of those who were.

When people see that an organization will tolerate poor performance, they are less inclined to contribute.  After all, if you can stay employed with less effort, why try harder?  When you demonstrate that poor performance will not be tolerated, some borderline employees will get the message and pick up their pace a bit.  Good employees will continue to work hard, knowing that good performance is expected and rewarded.

When did you last go looking for greatly needed voids in your organization?  When did you last honestly assess each person in terms of their contribution, commitment, and character?  Is a person harming your organization by squandering the privilege of working there?  Is a person pulling others down to their level?  Answer these questions honestly, and you’ll find a few needed voids.

Don’t overlook the most important void: are you filling one?  Could you be perceived as lacking in contribution, commitment, or character?  Are you able to objectively figure that out?  I guarantee that the voids you seek in your team have no idea that they are in that position.  Don’t be similarly blind.

Here’s hoping you’ll have the discernment to find the greatly needed voids in your organization and the courage to create them.  And may you never find yourself filling a greatly needed void.

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