Most businesses must have some team members/staff/producers to open their doors every morning. In the world of the business, the major requirement of being a business owner is having the ability to recruit, hire, train and retain staffing. Even today, when many companies believe they can provide this support through call centers, business owners are not relieved of building their skills in this area. It may have become more acute since the companies are attempting to take the service work off of the business owner, which is the easier of the work, and leaving the business owner’s office to be more of a sales environment. The area where many business owners have not experienced much success is in the recruiting, hiring, and training of high performance sales staff!
Many business owners are struggling to grow their companies with mediocre Matts and Marys. These business owners really want to put money into their retirement plans and take a few quality vacations, but their businesses are just plain stuck. Mediocre Matts and Marys are not really good enough to keep, but they just aren’t bad enough to fire!
I came to understand during my tenure in management that this type of worker is a cancer in the business organization. Whenever the business owner would discuss “Matt” or “Mary” with me, there were always the phrases like “I asked Matt to do that, but he hasn’t done it yet.” My response was always the same, “So, what are your plans to address that?” I then would get the proverbial “but” comments. “I know he isn’t the best salesperson,” or, “I don’t think she really likes her job, BUT she comes to work every day on time and the customers love her!”
These Matts and Marys are not adding a lot of value to the business. They have claimed seats. They will do just enough to appear to be on board with the goals and visions of the business owner, but not to the point of truly moving out of their comfort zones to try new tactics and processes. As a matter of fact, these Matts and Marys will be the first to speak up against the new software program, process, and procedures.
Again – they are not really good enough to keep, but they are just not bad enough to fire.
These Matts and Marys cause business owners to pull out their hair and send them into fits because in many ways they seem to be capable. When the business owner decides to push and prod Mary to make calls for bank loans after asking again and again, Mary finally realizes the business owner is very intent about this, so she calls one afternoon and gets five loan applications! The business owner feels reaffirmed that Mary was a good hire and that he just needs to coax more production from her. Mary is thinking, “well I hope I have got him off my back with that day’s work and can go back to doing what I want to do!”
What the business owner has is a situation that will extract more mental and emotional energy from him than he will ever benefit from.
Far worse is that the business owner is paying for the privilege of someone that is stealing their joy! Begging your people to perform – and then paying them for their poor performance – is a fast way to spoil the fun for most business owners!
So why do intelligent people put up with this?
Better still let’s identify what the symptoms and signs of a mediocre Matt and Mary are:
- They resist setting goals or having goals set for their performance.
- They consistently fail to meet their goals.
- They blame the market, pricing, customers, company rules, software, hardware, etc.
- They complain the business owner has not trained them well enough.
- They don’t feel comfortable with the product.
- They have problems prioritizing activities.
- They never find the time to perform the task requested of them.
- They keep forgetting to ask for referrals, or suggest other products, or set follow-up appointments.
These are just a few of the many excuses I have heard over the years. I referred earlier to these folks as a “cancer” in a business because they not only impact their performance and the business owner’s time, energy, and mental state – they impact the performance of every person working there. They do the least and demand the most attention. If a business owner is lucky to have a high performing team member, then with a mediocre Matt or Mary on board, they will leave.
What usually happens is mediocre Matt and Mary attract more of the same. They refer their friends and family to the business to hire.
Why do intelligent business owners continue these folks in their employ?
The Answer is FEAR!!!!!
The business owners are afraid of:
- Making the same mistake with the next hire so they keep the mediocre Matt or Mary they know.
- Not being prepared with another candidate ready to go on board.
- Production falling off while training a new team member.
- The unknown, more turnover in the future.
- Conflict when terminating mediocre Matt or Mary.
- No one to handle the phones, etc.
- Being held hostage in his/her office because no one else is there to answer phones or greet customers.
- Marketing plans and goals being impacted.
- Explaining to the customers what happened.
- Mediocre Matt or Mary going to another business and pulling customers with them.
I recently heard a comment I thought was profound: The speaker said, “courage is not the absence of fear, it is the management of fear!”
In order to move away from this destructive situation, business owners need only learn to manage their fears and to implement some basic management processes. This may require a level of discomfort, but the results will be beneficial.
First, commit to an accountability system for everyone – including the business owner. Changing habits is never easy. Establish in advance the consequences of not achieving goals. Publish the goals – in writing – to all affected team members, and attain their signatures prior to implementation. Failing to agree is notification that they do not plan to move forward with the business. Take this opportunity to assess the skills and talents of team members. Are they in the right seat for their individual strengths and skills?
Second, declare the end of the Blame Game! Change the culture of the business to reflect your new attitude. Nothing positive comes from something negative. There will always be obstacles and challenges. Define your business as a NO EXCUSE ZONE! Inspire your team to greatness. Grow all team members to be their best selves.
Third, be prepared! Recruit, Recruit, and then Recruit some more. It is so very painful to watch a grown man or woman being held hostage by mediocre Matt and Mary team members, knowing they are paying for the privilege of being tortured!
Looking for talent is as important – if not more important – than looking for a prospect to make a sale to! You will have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find a prince. But, if you stop kissing and settle for what is convenient and easy, the consequence we have been talking about in this article…(Mediocre you-know-whos!)
Fourth, take a stand on learning, training and development! Every job I have ever accepted I realized it was my responsibility to learn the job. The business owner should be responsible to help people develop, but you cannot make them learn. They must own and choose to do what it takes to learn the job. The business owner must provide the tools, environment, and support by establishing a clear learning track set up with benchmarks for knowledge and skills needed to be mastered and by when. Ongoing coaching and role-play are required for continuing development. You can’t put in what God left out! If they do not have the mental agility to do the job, do both of you a favor and part ways. Just because they demonstrated certain skills does not mean they have what you need to grow with your business!
Finally, if you hired good people, invested in their development, you need to get out of their way! A sure sign that you have not done that is if you are required to set priorities for them daily (that is, after the initial training phase). If you have to repeat over and over again the expectations for the job regarding setting appointments, suggesting new products to consider, and referrals, and these tasks are routinely not executed, there are problems.
Mediocre Matts and Marys only survive and thrive in a business that does not have a Culture of High Performance Expectations.
They are not happy being mediocre, but if the business owner is willing to except mediocrity, then so be it! When the business owner decides to pursue the business of their dreams (we all dream of a high producing/low maintenance business), they will realize that mediocre Matt and Mary cannot be part of that plan or they will find themselves living in a nightmare that only ends with retirement when the production they didn’t have will haunt them forever!
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