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It was April of 2013, and I caught the end of one of Coach Saban’s spring football press conferences. He talked about his team’s performance during the last two scrimmages heading into the spring game next Saturday.

He said something that caught my ear. Coach said, “While other teams are working on getting players on the bus, I am focused on getting certain players off our bus.” 

And I thought to myself; it would have been nice to have heard this in October 1996. 

It was in my fourth year as Vice President of Sales.  A couple of months prior, we invested a million dollars in moving our inventory to a one hundred thousand square foot warehouse and converted our warehouse into a sales bullpen. Things were going great.

I just completed a meeting with the Vice Present of Purchasing and a new supplier, Acer America.

I felt optimistic about what the new supplier relationship could mean to us and our clients as I walked back to my office. 

As I got closer to my office, I could see two people get up from their desks and make a beeline toward my office.

Bob and Karen, two tenured and successful sales contributors, arrived before me and did not look happy.

As we took our seats in my office, Bob went into detail about how Richard, another top performer, had yelled at a client.  And Karen added that he destroyed a Mitel phone. At the time, it was a thousand-dollar phone. 

Given that Bob and Karen sat less than three yards away from Rick, I had little doubt about the accuracy of what happened.

As they talked, I listened, took notes, and nodded.

I felt like it had been just a couple of weeks ago when I had witnessed this same behavior.

I shook Bob and Karen’s hands and thanked them. 

Then, I found the notes from the last incident and asked Stacey, our HR Director, to join me.

Fortunately, we formally documented the last discussion with Rick.

Stacey and I drafted another reprimand letter.

We followed the path that we set out on the first incident.

We called Rick to my office. He was loud and expressed disagreement, and everyone on the sales team heard it. 

After his tirade with Stacey and me, Rick signed the document, got his car keys, and left for paid leave for a week.

At the end of the day, on the way out to my car, ten people asked me why I did not fire Rick on the spot.

Unfortunately, Rick had earned the reputation and nickname of Rick the D**k. 

I shared with them that if I could help him get things turned around, he could be a good teammate, earn great money for himself, and be a significant contributor to the company. They were disappointed but understood.

When Rick returned from his leave, Stacey and I showed him our written plan and told him the behavior changes needed for him to continue to be part of the team.

I counseled Rick every week for the next month.

Stacey did the same in a separate meeting. 

His sales were as strong as before the last incident, and his temper was under control.

I thought that Rick learned how to manage his emotions and control his temper. 

But then, a few days later, it happened again.

And this time, it was adios to Rick.

As Stacey and I escorted him to the parking lot, I could hear the commotion from the sales floor.

When we returned, the entire sales team of one hundred thirty stood up and gave us a standing ovation.

As many of the team talked to me privately during the remainder of the day, they shared how Rick’s behavior negatively impacted their work.

I thought I knew how Rick impacted others, but I didn’t. 

I underestimated how one person impacted the results of others and created a poor work environment.

I learned that one person, no matter how they performed, was not more important than the team. 

I was so focused on getting people on our bus that I did not invest enough time getting a few off our bus.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, let’s talk. I am happy to provide an ear and help you create a plan. Please click here to schedule a time.

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