Where There is Smoke…

Where There is Smoke…

Something happened to our electric skillet this past week. It did not stop working, but it did start smoking at the heat control knob. Years before, I had noticed unusual hot spots and uneven cooking surfaces on it. Then I kept seeing food sticking to the surface and causing additional clean-up work. The quality of the cooking surface seemed very tarnished, effecting the quality of the food. After each use I would spend additional time soaking the skillet in soapy warm water to allow the cooked-on materials to loosen to let me clean it more easily. Over the years, I repeated this process all while thinking I should get a new skillet, but I never did. The old one was getting the job done. After the long cleaning process, I would put the old discolored electric skillet back in the cabinet to use the next time. But this time the smoke was telling me it was now dangerous, and I needed to act.

Are you putting up with something irritating, unpleasant, or damaging on your team? Maybe it has been going on for many years, and it’s damaging your growth as a leader. You have allowed it to take root in the organization, even though it should have been weeded out a long, long time ago. It is probably affecting others on the team as well. When will you quit waiting and finally take action?

Dealing with uncomfortable work situations can numb leaders into indecisiveness. It can start slowly with a bad hire, an incorrect process or assigning your talent to the wrong position on the team. I recently worked with an organization whose owner had to deal with a bully in a leadership position. Her lack of up-to-date knowledge in her field, and a lack of a healthy self-image, gave me pause. Why was she on the team in the first place? To hide her incompetence, she was telling other team members continuously how poorly the owner of the business was doing his job, and how she was here to fix it all. This type of toxic dripping leads to mistrust, doubt, and confusion. Poisonous talent no matter how good they are or in this case, think they are, is destructive. Poisonous talent becomes a weed taking away valuable nutrients, creating an environment for more weeds to grow and damage the team.

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” 

~Dale Carnegie

After multiple consultations between the owner and her, repeated reminders of what she was hired to produce and the expected results, it was time to quit. It was time to quit talking, quit hoping for change, and it was time to quit hesitating and take corrective action for the advancement of the organization. Today, she is no longer part of that team. It was not easy for the owner, and no one rejoiced in the action taken, but it was time to quit wishing things would work out. Several top co-workers later told the owner how relieved they were when he decided to weed out the poison.

If you don’t fix, repair, or eliminate whatever is negatively affecting your team, it will cost you and your organization more down the road. Good employees will leave your team because they don’t think you see or care about them. They have options. You also may experience the loss of growth opportunities. No matter how hard or difficult it may be to act now, quit allowing the weed to grow. The longer you wait, the more it will it cost you in the future; you may lose good employees, good contractors, good suppliers, and even good clients.

Today the new electric skillet arrived at my front door. The clean non-stick surface and new heat controller are impressive. The smoke finally succeeded in convincing me there was a bigger issue. One that had real consequences. Leader, don't let more time go by without dealing with the need for change within your organization. If there is smoke, there is surely potential for a fire.

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