David

  • Avoid speaking negatively about others (even when it’s deserved)

    When you speak down about a person to a third party (i.e., someone who doesn’t know them), it will often reflect negatively on yourself. The weaker the relationship between you and the third party, the truer this is. If the person you’re speaking with hasn’t formed their own opinion, they are unlikely to believe you with certainty. And if they hear you speaking poorly about someone they haven’t informed an opinion on, they might wonder, will this person speak poorly about me to others?

    Here are some common examples.

    1. Speaking poorly about another colleague. Let’s say you work on the sales team, and Dan is an ineffective salesperson. He’s sloppy. He doesn’t close deals. If you’re Dan’s colleague, there might be a temptation to speak negatively about Dan to other team members. Either the person will know Dan and already have formed their own negative opinion of him, at which point hearing it from you will only make you seem like a bully. Or they won’t know Dan, and they’ll wonder why you’re speaking negatively about your colleague, regardless of whether it’s true.

    2. Speaking poorly about a former colleague. Let’s say you start a new job in customer support. During your onboarding, you’re paired with a colleague James who is consistently talking about how terrible a former team member – Taryn – was. Because you never met Taryn, and don’t have your own opinion about her, you’re likely to be skeptical and wonder why it’s a topic of discussion. Even if Taryn was really bad at her job, James is likely to seem gossipy or rude by making it a point of discussion.

    3. Speaking poorly about a former boss or employer in an interview. If you’re interviewing for a new job, it’s likely you’re dissatisfied with your current boss or company. But spending a lot of time in the interview speaking negatively about it isn’t likely to win any favours. That doesn’t mean you need to pretend a bad situation is great. But it does mean to avoid making the topic a focus of the interview.

    P.s., I’m making some domain and hosting changes to the blog. For the next few weeks, you won’t be able to reply directly to this email. If you want to send me a note, you’ll need to send it to daveowencord@gmail.com directly. Thanks for your patience.

  • The Three T’s model for struggling employees

    Every people leader will be faced with the challenge of managing a chronically underperforming employee at some point. A lot of time and energy can be absorbed by underperformers. It can be tough to determine WHY someone is struggling. A myriad of reasons exists. Generally, it’s worth spending the time to try and identify the cause. If we understand the root cause, we can create a plan to address it. But sometimes it’s impossible to determine the why and we’re stuck struggling with what to do.

    Several years ago, I learned about a simple framework to help define a path forward for underperforming employees called the Three T’s, which stands for Train-Transfer-Terminate. The concept being, if someone is persistently underperforming in their role, in most cases you can pursue one of three options:

    1. Train them. Perhaps they are underperforming due to a lack of training and knowledge, which is preventing them from doing their job well, despite their best efforts. Investing time and energy in training is always worth the time; it’s a high return activity. Sometimes an employee won’t realize where their knowledge gap is and you’ll have to suss this out yourself. If you can tell someone is engaged and working hard, but continues to underperform, it may be a sign additional training is required.

    2. Transfer them. A very capable and engaged employee can struggle or fail when placed in the wrong role. Sometimes the problem isn’t the person, it’s the role they are in. If you can tell the person has the right attitude and capabilities, transitioning them into an alternative role can allow them to thrive. That could be a different role and accountabilities on the same team or a new role in an entirely different function within the organization.

    3. Termination. If training won’t solve the problem and you believe the person is in the right role, but they persistently underperform, then you must terminate them. Leaving someone who is failing in a role is unfair to them, unfair to their colleagues, and unfair to the company. Obviously, these are difficult decisions. They are not made easier by inaction.

    Because we are talking about people, situational context is critical and nuance exists. The “three T’s” model isn’t perfect. But it’s a relatively simple and easy to remember mental model to help diagnose the problem.

  • A Life Worth Living

    I like to alternate between reading fiction and non-fiction. Lately, I’ve been on a big biography kick for non-fiction. Mostly, I’ve been reading about successful entrepreneurs. I’ve always enjoyed stories about people’s lives and combined with my interest in learning about what makes certain businesses and operators successful, it’s a fitting combination. I recently finished “The Snowball” by Alice Schroeder, which is a biography of Warren Buffet. I really enjoyed it. She provides a more complete picture of his life than the carefully curated public image.

    In the book, a direct quote is included from Warren’s response to a student group asking about his greatest success and greatest failure. The quote really stuck out to me. I’ve included it here:

    “Basically, when you get to my age, you’ll really measure your success in life by how many of the people you want to have love you actually do love you.

    I know people who have a lot of money, and they get testimonial dinners and they get hospital wings named after them. But the truth is that nobody in the world loves them. If you get to my age in life and nobody thinks well of you, I don’t care how big your bank account is, your life is a disaster.

    That’s the ultimate test of how you have lived your life. The trouble with love is that you can’t buy it. You can buy sex. You can buy testimonial dinners. You can buy pamphlets that say how wonderful you are. But the only way to get love is to be lovable. It’s very irritating if you have a lot of money. You’d like to think you could write a check: I’ll buy a million dollars’ worth of love. But it doesn’t work that way. The more you give love away, the more you get.”

    There’s some irony in reading that quote from someone who spent their life relentlessly accumulating wealth. Regardless, the spirit of the message certainly resonated with me, and in some ways, because of Buffet’s relentless and successful pursuit of wealth, he’s uniquely well positioned to make such a statement. You can never have too many reminders to prioritize those you love and the quality of your personal relationships above all else.