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8 Signs Of An Underperformer, Termite and Covert Change Killer

In our most recent post, we talked about the people who could pose potential problems for you when you come into a leadership role – Underperformers, Termites and Covert Change Killers.

These folks aren’t just minor roadblocks. They’re landmines waiting to be stepped on. Adding even more complication to the matter is the fact that many of these types of individuals aren’t always obvious enemies of your goals. In fact, they could present themselves as your closest friend!

With an agenda to accomplish in your new role and a timeframe to do it in, how can you uncover these landmines quicker?

I’ve found there are at least 8 telltale signs of an Underperformer, Termite and Covert Change Killer. You’ll be happy to learn that if you can pay close attention to these warning signs, it shouldn’t take you more than one month – at a maximum – to spot the landmine and, if necessary, remove them before they ever get a chance to stop your momentum.

You’ll know them when you see one or more of the following traits:

1. They’re not open to change and are very happy with the status quo.

Even though they can and have failed enough times, the true problem with people who are Underperformers, Termites and Covert Change Killers is less about skills than you expect. Dig deeper and you’ll find that the real issue is they don’t want to change. They want to keep everything the way it is at the status quo. It’s those people I’ve always had trouble with.

2. They don’t play well with others.

They tend to be sole contributors and are not used to working in a team, so they take down the overall performance of the group. They may have been pushed into a higher level role and think they have all the traits to succeed as a leader when they don’t. They’re scared because deep down, they know they don’t have what it’s going to take to do the job.

3. If they manage other people, they tend to have higher turnover rates than their peers.

They are usually micro-managers who are quick to blame others on their team for the problems they’ve created. Nothing is ever quite good enough for them, but they’re passive aggressive and won’t tell you that to your face. I’ve found they like to manage through fear, with a command and control style. They’re also among the very best at playing office politics.

4. They hate being under the microscope.

They’ve usually received consistently great reviews from multiple supervisors. But were those reviews as honest or in-depth as they could be? Probably not. Consequently, they’ve believed their own “press clippings” for so long that it’s almost impossible for them to change. They’ll tell you how “good enough is good enough” and that your expectations or standards are too high.

Unfortunately, be forewarned that this may put you in the position of being the “bad guy” as the first person to ever tell them what they genuinely need to improve upon. Don’t be surprised if you get pushback from this critique and hear responses like, “I’ve been here 20 years and nobody gave me a bad review. This is the first time.” They have no interest in being self-aware. They think they’re perfect and you’re the one with the problem because nobody else has ever had an issue with them before. Or so it would seem.

5. They may a key asset who thinks you cannot survive without them.

They may be a famous person in your industry, a technical guru, a rainmaker or the owner’s son or daughter. But if they’re regularly held up as an example of what’s not tolerated in your culture, are regularly seen violating your company’s values and/or behave as if they’re made of Teflon, then you should be asking yourself these questions:

o What’s the best and worst that would happen if they were no longer in your organization?

o How would you fill the (short-term) gap that’s created?

6. They don’t have the skills to succeed now.

Oh, they once did. But because they’re change-averse, they didn’t evolve their skill set. They’re still using old technology. And they have no interest in learning anything new either.

7. They don’t want to do what they’re asked.

Who said this is a democracy? When you’re asked to do something by your boss, you generally should do it whether you like it or not, right? Yet these individuals will dig in their heels, question why they have to do it and maybe give you some attitude to boot. You don’t need a “yes” man or woman but you don’t need someone to be difficult all the time either.

8. They take up way too much of your time and energy to manage.

They may be competent but when it comes to interacting with others, they’re an outright disaster. They suck all the energy out of the room, partially because they are masters at playing the victim and blaming others for the problems they’ve created. If it’s so terrible of an environment for them and they don’t want to change, it’s probably best to set them free.

“Yes, but I can turn some of these people around into allies of mine, right?”

That’s an admirable thought, but it’s very unlikely that Underperformers, Termites and Covert Change Killers will suddenly meet your performance expectations, embrace change or stop undermining you and your plans. The internal dysfunction that may result from keeping them around too long – and the ensuing impact on your credibility – isn’t worth trying to transform someone who doesn’t want to change in the first place.

Are You A Leader With Courage?

You might be – or you might still have some work to do. We’re close to finishing a self-assessment that answers this question that’s based on my forthcoming book “Being A Leader With Courage: How To Be Successful In Your C-level Position In 18 Months Or Less.” We’ll be launching the self-assessment during March and the book will be published in May. If you sign up for our blog, you’ll be kept informed of the availability of both. Click here to be added to our mailing list.

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