I recently watched a video on Fast Company in which Nike president and CEO Mark Parker tells about the advice that Apple CEO Steve Jobs gave him shortly after the release of the Nike+ product line. It’s a simple bit of wisdom that any entrepreneur can relate to: “Get rid of the crappy stuff.”
Jobs began the conversation by complementing Nike on all the great products they have. When asked for advice, he simply blurted out what many of us have on our minds. It’s easy to pump out products and services. It’s a lot harder to be discerning and to eliminate those items that are ruining the brand.
The President’s Pet Projects
We’ve all been there. The President comes up with what he or she thinks is a fabulous new offering and we are left to “make it happen.” I’ve asked myself many times if this was really a good use of my time. In the end, it usually wasn’t. So if you are a CEO who is reading this, I would suggest you run your idea up the flagpole with others who aren’t as invested in your idea. Oh, you say you don’t have any others to run this by? Well that’s an issue worth further exploration.
CEOs work in a vacuum, and their own exhaust can easily suck them in. By that I mean that after a while, you begin to believe your own propaganda. And let’s face it, who in the organization is really brave enough to tell the boss his idea won’t work? Think of how much time and money would be saved if you had a trusted advisor who could prevent you from making costly mistakes. Someone who isn’t afraid to tell you the truth because his or her survival does not depend on whether or not you like them. Find a CEO group or work with a consultant that you trust has your best interests in mind. Now breathe deeply as you take in clean air.
Clean out the crappy employees
These are the people who have no problems telling others how poorly they are treated or why the company is going down. Don’t know who they are? Do a Google search using your company name and you’ll soon see who is saying what. Crappy employees aren’t usually the brightest employees. You’ll see this when their full name follows their rant.
While you are sweeping the office, don’t forget that dust can gather in corners as well. Make sure those occupying the corner offices aren’t just sitting there collecting dust. You may be able to revive some of these people by re-engaging them in projects that will help move your organization forward again.
Become a “no crap” zone
This is the type of place where people don’t allow those who aren’t fully committed to the organization to stay. You don’t have to hire outside security to ensure the zone is clean. If done right, your people will police this area without you even knowing about it.
I’ve worked in organizations where we had a few crappy employees try to bring us down. Eventually these people no longer felt like they fit in. They took their crap elsewhere, much to the relief of those they left behind. But every now and again, we were faced with one person who simply wouldn’t take the hint.
This is when we needed to haul in the big bulldozers. We convinced management these people were doing more harm than good, even if they were top producers. Eventually they were swept out of the organization and we were left to clean up their debris. In hindsight, I wish we had been more forceful. We should have done a better job of demonstrating how these situations were directly impacting productivity and customer satisfaction.
So if you are sitting in your office waiting for others to tell you what you already know, I would advise you to take action. Friends of mine in similar situations didn’t bother to inform the boss, as they assumed he already knew. Instead, they picked up their tools, along with all of their training, and joined others who had defected for greener pastures.
Maybe Jobs didn’t mean Nike should eliminate all of the “crappy stuff.” Perhaps he was just talking about the products that are bringing the brand down. But hey, if you are going to do some cleaning, why not spruce up the entire place while you’re at it?
© 2010 Human Resource Solutions. All rights reserved.
I welcome your comments.
Author of the forthcoming book, Suddenly in Charge! Managing Up, Managing Down, Succeeding All Around (Nicholas Brealey, January 2011)
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