Thursday, August 23, 2012

To save job of your direct report, Olympic effort (and build trust)

There are proven techniques to getting rid of under-performing in-house counsel. You can ignore them (let them hang themselves with poor performance). You can manage them out (document clear expectations you know they will not meet). You can outright fire them.

Is that the best use of your time and your company’s money? Think of how expensive and time-consuming it is to find and train a replacement (your HR consultant may have the numbers to prove it).

Consider the alternative; harder, but better for the bottom line. An Olympic effort to manage to success!

This may be easier said than done. You may be overwhelmed by your own workload. Managing people might not be your thing. And the list of possible deficiencies is, of course, endless. Your direct report may be a terrible team player, self-absorbed, absent-minded, a Millennial who is not inspired by work-for-works-sake.

But if you’re game, think of yourself as coaching an Olympic athlete. After all, you are trying to mold a highly educated lawyer (who happens to have shortcomings as an employee). But where to start?

Start with Trust. If you’re ready to fire someone, neither of you may trust the other. You cannot succeed in your reformation project unless your direct report trusts you and is willing to make the difficult changes you demand.  Other thoughts on trust:
  • Think of trust in the context of coaching Olympic athletes: "Create a relationship of trust and respect. This is the foundation of all of the work you will do together; without it, both of you are on shaky ground. Demonstrate the willingness to listen and an open mind to hearing whatever is shared. Create a pattern of honest, two-way communication." Five Coaching Strengths that Produce Champions (HBR Aug. 8, 2012).
  • As noted author John Maxwell says: "trust is necessary in ALL good relationships. Good marriages, business relationships, and friendships all require trust. Without it, there can be no open and honest interaction, and the relationship will be only temporary." Build your relationships on the solid ground of TRUST.

Saving the job of your direct report will have many challenges. Building trust may pave the way for success.

This summary was prepared by Perry Cone and posted at

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