Keep the Best Players on Your Team

If you have followed my tips throughout the years, you are prob­ably aware I sincerely believe that, in order to win at the game of business, you must recruit and field the right players for your team.

Think of the game of basketball. The coach who fields the best players normally wins the most games. This same winning coach not only starts the game with his top five players, but he also ensures he has a deep bench of talent ready to play should one or more of his top players need a rest, get hurt, or get in foul trouble.

Along with the players, there are coaching, recruiting and administra­tive personnel who impact the team’s performance. So how does the coach keep all the team members playing their roles without getting disgruntled with management or one another — or maybe worse, wanting to jump ship for a better offer and leave the team?

Like a winning basketball coach, a leader must make a lot of tough de­cisions on which players or person­nel to keep, whom to let go, and how much compensation they need. To en­sure that the team stays together, all players should be compensated fairly based on their skills, efforts and ability to help the team win. If not, the team will start to falter.

I would like to tell you a story about a famous basketball coach named George. George loved his players, and they all loved him. Being a gifted recruiter in his early years, his team won the majority of the games on their schedule based simply on the out­standing talent of his players. George had a big, soft heart — so big that he kept all the players on his team, even though some of them got complacent and no longer performed at the level it took to win games. After all, George felt that he owed them something for the role they played when they were winning most of the games.

The team’s consistent winning per­centage came to an end, and they suffered their first losing season. The next year, they kept losing and losing and losing. Again, with his tremen­dous heart, instead of finding and pro­moting the best players, George kept the same players around, as it hurt him too much to make the necessary changes in personnel.

One day, seemingly out of the blue to George, the team owner fired him. As if this wasn’t bad enough, former players began talking about how George had no guts to do what it takes to win at basketball. They saw all along that changes needed to be made, and they watched the team suf­fer due to George’s big, soft heart.

Of course, I made this story up, as coaches like George don’t keep their coaching jobs long enough for anyone to fall in love with them. However, if I were to duplicate the same story but alter it to describe how many busi­nesses are run, it would be a true one. If it doesn’t work in basketball, what makes business owners think keeping mediocre employees will work in busi­ness?

I hear time and time again that busi­ness owners (coaches) will keep a certain employee, just because he or she is a friend, a family member, or has been with the company for X number of years and is loyal. Some employers will say, “It’s only fair, as this person has been here for 30 years and helped build the place.” It’s almost as if he forgot he paid the employee at the end of every week for the last 30 years.

Could you imagine famous coach­es like Bill Belichick or Bobby Knight keeping players or staff around who don’t do their jobs well? Big-hearted business people like George don’t stand the test of time; they go out of business.

At the end of every year, a leader should evaluate his team and list each person from top to bottom on impor­tance to his company. Then he should list the pay they receive on the same chart from top to bottom. If the com­pensation doesn’t match up, in line from highest to lowest with the im­portance of each player, then you can expect the team will have issues. And these issues bring chaos and disgrun­tled players.

Just as the coach who builds the best team is the one who wins the most games, so does the small busi­ness owner who does the same. Once you evaluate the players on the team, where there’s a discrepancy, fix it — through training, a promotion, a de­motion or whatever you need to do to set things right.

Having loyal employees is certainly important to your business, as long as these players continue to perform their jobs well. If they are not performing well, and you are keeping them simply because they have been at your com­pany a long time, or are friends or fam­ily, you are sabotaging your chances of winning at the game of business. As the leader of your team, you must do what needs to be done to keep a winning team in place. If you do, I can assure you that “you will win your fair share of the games.”

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