Ten years ago, by far the best presentation at the 41st Annual Supply Chain & Logistics Canada Conference on Creating a Resilient Supply Chain was Jim Tompkins’ (CEO of Tompkins’ Associates) presentation on Bold Leadership for Organizational Acceleration. (He also gave the keynote, which was a great presentation as well, but this was one of the best presentations the doctor‘s ever been too in his years and years of sitting through supply chain and logistics presentations.)
Not only is Jim a great speaker, and if you haven’t heard him, I encourage you to attend his session the next time you’re at a conference where he is speaking, but he’s also really good at telling it like it is. Really, really good. And in this presentation, where he gave his top three tips to bold leadership success, he didn’t pull any punches. In reverse order, his tips were:
- Don’t Do Anything Stupid,
- Focus, and
- Kill the Left-Suckers.
And I couldn’t agree more! What’s a left-sucker you ask? It’s someone who can’t do his job, and pulls his manager away from doing what the manager is supposed to be doing to help the individual who can’t do his job. Why is this so bad? Isn’t that what managers are for? Well, managers are there to help, to teach, and to guide — but they’re not there to do their subordinates’ jobs. When managers are consistently pulled away from their jobs, they don’t get their work done and then their directors have to step in to pick up the slack. When the directors get consistently pulled away from their jobs, they don’t get their work done and then the (rest of the) C-Suite (in a smaller organization, where left-suckers can suck the life out of a company before you know it) has to pick up the slack. When the C-Suite has to pick up the slack, they aren’t getting their work done, and then the CEO gets pulled into fire-fighting on a daily basis — and instead of the CEO leading the C-Suite in setting strategic direction, and the firm in building the business, she’s bogged down in tactical execution while the company starts burning down around her.
As Jim says, a CEO should have three hours a day to do nothing but focus on the strategic. She needs to think about what the company is doing, what they should be doing in the short and long term, and how they are going to get there over the required time period to either reach the top or maintain their place on the top. If she’s consistently being pulled in half-a-dozen directions, that’s not going to happen. So you need to make sure that it does — by identifying, and eliminating, the source of the problem — the left-suckers!
If you can train them — great! If you can find them another role that they can do — that’s good too. But if you can’t train them, or find a role that they can do without constant supervision and hand-holding, or you just can’t make them happy, then you have no choice … you have to terminate them. Or they’ll terminate your company. (You can slowly phase them out, but they have to go. And the phasing starts the minute you identify there is no converting them.)
Bravo, Jim. Bravo!