“There are no bad people…only bad leaders.” I heard that from my drill sergeant in basic training. Fortunately, he was not talking to me at the time but it has stuck with me for decades and served me well as an HR professional when I had to lead people. Now, as an employee retention speaker and employee retention trainer, I see these words playing out all the time as the labor shortage takes hold and supervisors are dealing with more marginal people. My drill sergeant faced that problem years ago and was able to make good soldiers out of what little he had to work with.
What organizations are going to face is that they will have more and more marginal people that they will have to find a way to lead differently in order to make those people successful. Almost anyone can lead when they have great people as long as they get out of the way and let them do their job. The great leaders are the ones that can lead marginal people to do a great job. When organizations are faced with “C-“, players and they have to make “B” and “A” players out of them, we will see the true mark of the best organizations and the best leaders.
What it will take is the ability of leaders to coach, guide, motivate, train and grow people. In some ways, it reminds me of the kids I coached in Little League. I had to take everyone and get some performance out of all of them in order to win any games. The kids were not going to quit and I had to figure out innovative ways to do what needed to be done to win. In business, winning is the only option unless you decide to close the doors and shut your business down.
Much of what was done was encouragement and guiding them. But, the most important thing was that you had to believe in the kids and the kids had to know you believed in them. That is a tough concept for many leaders to understand because they think that if they are paying someone they don’t have to do those things. Maybe in the past that worked, but it will not work in the future. It is a tough shift in mindset for most leaders to make.
Ultimately, in the end, our success or failure as organizations is going to require a major shift in mindset if we wish to retain the people we need to survive with the challenge we face. As you get ready to address this challenge, remember what my drill sergeant said. “There are no bad people…only bad leaders.”