What leadership example do you set when working with your top performers?

You know what I mean. Do you have a different level of tolerance for certain employees, just because they produce enormous amounts of revenue?

I remember an owner many years ago that was in a “pickle” and had to make a decision he didn’t really want to make. This owner was doing everything in his mind to legitimize why he should not make the decision, but knew ultimately that one had to be made. Like all of you, this particular contractor had a code of ethics he had preached for years. He advertised he was drug-free and background checked. Not only that, he had said many times, “We are a beacon of what’s good for our community and our moral compass will never waiver.” He insisted that they always display the highest levels of integrity, respect and ethics. This all sounds great!

The company had lost technicians, administration, and salesmen many times over the years, but most of those probably needed to leave. This was different, this was his top producing comfort advisor. When I say top producer, this guy was selling $300,000 per month in residential replacement work, and his customers absolutely loved him.

It all started when a woman called the office wanting to know where the installers were. She insisted they they were supposed to be at her home installing a new heating and air system today. After gathering her information, it was fairly clear that there was no record of her in the computer system. The call center rep asked her, “Who sold the job?” Her answer was the top producer, a guy who was an amazing closer, always on time, and loved by customers. After asking a few more questions, it was evident that something was not quite right. You see, the business card she was calling from was indeed from the owner’s company, but the proposal that was completed had a different company name. No, she didn’t get it wrong. The employee was also selling for his biggest competitor. Had this happened before? Not sure, but it did this one time.

The owner wasn’t sure what to do. He had always been explicit with his team members about his standards. It wasn’t something mentioned once and never brought up again. This owner knew that his people understood it, and yet his top comfort advisor let his team down.

The owner thought about for a while. This was his best producer, and it would take two decent comfort advisors to replace him. Surely everyone would understand, right? I mean, he was still bringing in money to the company. He just needs to stop selling for the other guy.

On the other hand, what message would be sent if the owner didn’t fire the comfort advisor? Others in the company would see that the owner didn’t stand by his word and do what is right by enforcing his own policies. Before long, other employees may decide to do the same or do side work.

Tough decision? Not really.

You see, this story was about me. I was the leader faced with this decision, many years ago.

As much as it hurt, I fired the person. We did struggle for a while, but in the long run, it was worth it.

Whether you believe it or not, the rest of your team is watching everything you do as a leader. Afterward, they all came up to me and said if I had not done what was right, they would have left me. By not letting my moral compass waiver, we created an even more amazing team.

Publication date: 1/15/2018

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