One of the most rewarding aspects of starting and growing
a business over the past 19+ plus years is that I have a number of tenured
employees who have shared this amazing, crazy journey with me.
For instance, my Vice
President of Design/Engineering has
been with ISI since close to the beginning (1997) and now it's almost 18 years
later. Together we've seen a lot of people and products come and go and sometimes joke about how about how (sadly)
we've outlasted a lot of marriages we both know. It is with great pride
that I can say there are a number of other long term ISI employees including my
Nashville based service tech (12 years) accounts receivable and programming manager (11 years) and my
assistant (10 years). And in the latter part of 2015, ISI's Vice President of
Sales will celebrate his 10 year anniversary with the company. They are all great people and I'm so grateful for their
loyalty and dedication all these years later!
But when can that gratitude and
loyalty to a long term employee cloud a business owner's judgment? When does
sentimental thinking keep a business owner from rational thinking?
Based on my experience at ISI, one of the issues that
occur when managing a long term employee is that (both of you) tend to get so
comfortable with each other that you oftentimes "look the other way"
when there are problems or other performance issues. When is it acceptable to
tolerate behavior from one employee that you deem totally unacceptable for
others? Is it right to cut them slack
solely based on their "tenure" with the company? And shouldn't an
employee adapt, evolve and change with the times and be held accountable
whether they have been with the company 1 year or 10 years?
Recently I dealt
with many of these very issues at ISI which resulted in the termination of a
long term employee (12 years). Not only a personal and painful experience but
sad as well. 12 years is a long time . And I must say it taught me some really
valuable lessons about leadership and making "tough calls." Sometimes
its not about doing the easiest thing for you but doing the right thing for the
business. So what did the experience teach me?
1) A leader has to be consistent
in managing employees (1 year or 10 years)
2) Hold each and every employee accountable to adapt/change with the
times to stay competitive
3) Sentimental thinking should never trump rational
And at the end of the day, a leader needs to make the tough calls for
a company to grow and prosper in the future.