“Stars and Rotten Apples” is the title of Chapter 4 in Good Boss, Bad Boss by Robert Sutton. Sutton also wrote The No A _ _ hole Rule, which I would not recommend. His language is a little rough and harsh (not my style), and a conundrum to me — kind of surprising, since he is a professor of engineering and business at Stanford. All that being said, Good Boss, Bad Boss may make my Top Book Picks list.
I have written a lot about having the “right” team, which is code language for hiring the best talent you can and stepping up to people who aren’t performing. If you can get past the rough language, Sutton makes some great suggestions. I’ll attempt to summarize them for you:
- Bring the energizers — Interactions with some people can leave you feeling drained, while others can leave you feeling enthused about the possibilities.
- Rotten Apples: Bad is Stronger Than Good — The best bosses eliminate the negative, because even a few bad apples and destructive acts can undermine many good people.
- Show Them the Love — When people talk about leaving a company, they often aren’t feeling sufficiently appreciated.
- Assume the Best — The power of believing that good things will happen to your team and communicating that to them — the self-fulfilling prophecy— is supported by much research.
- Cut Loose the Real Losers (ouch!) — Bosses sometimes make excessively glowing judgments about people they have invested a lot of time and money in, or who they simply find to be likable and admirable. (Editorial comment: I have observed this a lot!)
- Keep Teams Together — Sutton used the first U.S. women’s national soccer team, which won numerous championships, as an example. Per Sutton, the key to their amazing success was the fact that they were a tight-knit and stable group of players who had played together for a dozen years or so.
- Take a Look in the Mirror — On page 124, Sutton provides a 20-question “EGOS Survey” (Evaluation Gauge for Obnoxious Superstars). (Editorial comment: I haven’t gathered up the courage to take the assessment yet, but I’ll bet it’s revealing).
My question is this: If I were to confidentially interview your key team members, would they all give me the same name of someone who should leave? And, just as important, would they all agree on someone (generically) who should be added to the team?
You already know the answers, so save your money and just do it!