“Once a team has learned to lose – has accepted it as a standard – the only solution is to start over and replace the entire team.” That was the advice given by an entrepreneur I met several years ago who often purchased struggling small businesses and turned them around.
It seemed counterproductive and, well, cold. Giving up all that experience and organizational knowledge could be a substantial loss. Plus, we’ve all experienced situations where even one person joining or leaving a team could make a significant difference in the culture and expectations of the team. Why not replace just the one or two?
From his perspective, he didn’t know which one or two it would be when he bought a failing business. Rather than trying to coach and nudge the expectations higher, it was quicker, easier, and cheaper to just set the performance bar high right from the start with a brand new team.
More importantly, he wasn’t talking about teams that had endured a few setbacks and were striving to turn things around. He was referring to teams riddled with apathy, just going through the motions. The teams that had suffered setbacks and stopped trying or had maybe never been held accountable in the first place were the ones he wasn’t willing to try to turn around.
If you’re on or leading a low performing team right now, are you rallying for a comeback or accepting your fate? Are you clear on expectations, following up, and holding accountable or hoping things turn around? Are your high performers (including you) patching the holes and making improvements or looking to escape a sinking ship. Do you identify and solve problems, simply find and admire them, or spend time worrying about problems that never were and may never be? Is the team focused on what it can control or fixated on everything it can’t?
If someone bought your business today, would your team be seen as an asset to be retained or a roadblock to be replaced?
These aren’t easy questions and there aren’t easy answers.