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Michael Feuer, who cofounded OfficeMax and is co-author of "The Benevolent Dictator: Empower Your Employees, Build Your Business, and Outwit the Competition," says leaders should deal directly with high-maintenance employees who have an inflated sense of their own importance and abilities.
Why are benevolent dictators the best types of leaders?
It's not as scary as it sounds. The benevolent part means always putting the entity, the employees and, most importantly, the customer, first. The "dictator" piece is recognizing when debate, conversation and analysis can't take you any further. At that time the benevolent dictator has to make a decision.
Why is it best to try to deal with performers' shortcomings rather than letting just cutting them loose?
Before simply cutting someone loose, a good manager must determine if the problem is the person or the manager. I always start by looking in the mirror and asking myself, "Did I explain my expectations? What needs to get done by when, why and how?' I then have a clearing-the-air session. Most people don't get up in the morning and decide to go to work and do things wrong. A little coaching and counseling can save a good person and save a company a lot of time, effort and money rather than starting from scratch.
Describe challenging performers and ways to deal with them.
The Prima Donna • He or she usually produces the best solution to a long-standing problem. But through it all, they want to be applauded, coddled and admired. This behavior consumes your time and disturbs day-to-day operations. The easiest solution is to put your cards on the table. Tell the Prima Donna that although his or her work is great, working with them is a pain, and that the situation is approaching a crossroads. Ask what you can do to resolve the problem, and stress that your door is always open but make it clear that these behaviors need to change (or else).
The Mr. or Ms. "It's Not My Job" employee • This worker does everything in the job description, but when asked to go above and beyond or expand their role, responds with, "It's not my job." Let it be known that the organization is a team, and every member of the team knows that whatever it takes isn't an option it's a requirement. Make it clear in no uncertain terms that contributing to success is everybody's job.
The Perfectionist • This employee makes sure every "i" is dotted and every "t" crossed, and will continue to tweak everything after it should have been declared complete. The problem is, when it comes to not accepting anything less than perfection, there can be too much of a good thing. As a leader, you must make sure that your employees don't sacrifice too much time or end up failing to achieve anything at all in a quest for the best. Try to help resident perfectionists distinguish between tasks that must be done to the letter, and those that can be done adequately enough to move on to the next step.
Any last tips?
Remember that most personnel problems evolve into larger issues because management ignores a series of smaller missteps along the way. When dealing with difficult personality types, keep in mind that you're not marrying these employees. You just need to occasionally dance with them.
email@example.com Twitter@DawnHouseTrib Michael Feuer, author