Business Leaders: Don’t Leave These Team Members Behind

It’s often said in movies and quoted by coaches that in war, “You never leave a man behind!” It’s a wonderful sentiment, and the spirit behind that kind of Bro Code is a powerful team-building, morale-boosting battle cry, but is that really the case…in every case?

For example, what if the man (or woman) in question is a double agent, a saboteur, or some kind of “anchor” dragging down the mission?

When we engage with a new member company at Petra Coach, we start with a two-day kickoff session where we meet with the leadership team to lay out foundational “stuff” for the company (e.g., core purpose, core values, their “Big Hairy Audacious Goal” or BHAG) and get specific on the next three to five years of the firm’s trajectory.

It is during the future vision session that I’ll see at least one team member push back on what’s possible, shoot down new ideas, and generally clam up by the end of the day. Over time, I’ve learned to identify these folks as the ones who “aren’t going to make it.” For lack of a better term, these are the “anchors.”The big follow-up question for leaders in charge of those team members is “Can you save these folks, and should you try?” Let’s discuss three kinds of “stick-in-the-mud” employees and how a leader could help them in order to keep them.

The Dissenter

How many times have you heard these statements from someone behind folded arms: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” “You don’t understand our industry.” Or my personal favorite, “We’ve always done it this way.”

Leadership coach Marshall Goldsmith wrote, “What got you here won’t get you there!” and he wasn’t whistling Dixie. The fact is that your team, in whatever configuration it is currently, will have to be something different to achieve long-term goals. More staff, more training, lots of effort, and the will to be flexible are all critical to success. Getting over that mental hurdle, however, is the first step in the journey, and some people can’t do it.

In my experience, the best way for leaders to help these folks is to acknowledge that change is inevitable. You should commit to providing dissenters with the tools and training they’ll need so they can grow faster than the rate of the company.

A word of caution: Actually provide those tools and training—and quickly, otherwise those team members will leave anyway.

The Disruptor

Tell me if this sounds familiar: Plans get made and one of your productive, happy team members suddenly mutates into a problem child. Did he change his personality overnight?

The fact is the leaders your company has when its doing $3 million in revenue are generally not going to be the same ones when you’re at $13 million. For example, a director of operations requires a different set of skills and experience to achieve proper margins and efficiencies at that larger scale.

When you make a decision to scale your business, watch as the “weak links” begin to see the writing on the wall. Some will either act out or disappear—but neither is a good leadership strategy for growth.

To remedy this, conduct honest talent assessments with your team members (which you should be doing anyway, regardless of your plans for growth) measured against a specific scorecard for their positions. At Petra Coach, we do this by specifying the roles, responsibilities, skills, and company culture expectations and revisiting with individual team members in one-on-one meetings with management.

The Diffident

Growth, in any form, comes from getting outside of your comfort zone. For example, the quickest way to identify whether your company has become complacent over time is to look at your team members. Are they quite happy with organic growth, 10% or less net profit, and barely getting by? If any of these answers are a “yes,” then I’ve got news: Complacency is the status quo and changes are going to rock the boat—hard.

And rocking the boat is good! I encourage leaders to set aggressive targets, change the processes that need updating, and see who steps up to the plate to take a swing. The team members that get up to bat may end up striking out on their first try, but in my experience, those individuals are the ones to get your company out of the comfort zone and on to bigger and better things.

The team members of concern are the ones who stay in the dugout. My recommendation? Trade ‘em.

This article originally appeared on AllBusiness.