My teeth have recently taught me a management lesson I have known for years but had neglected. I have a love/hate relationship with my teeth. While most people start having tooth issues late in life, mine started early in my teenage years. I’ve had braces, root canals, crowns, oral surgeries and not because I refused to brush and floss, but because my parents passed down some pretty bad genes. However, the point here is not sympathy for my plight, which I hope to garner some, but the management lesson I was recently reminded of. Here it is: when you neglect the team in order to focus on an under-performing member, the entire organization suffers.
A couple of years ago I started having problems with number 11 (in case you don’t know, number 11 is your right left canine tooth). My dentist told me to “baby it” and gave me a special rinse with a special syringe so I could work on it morning and evening. And I did. I traveled all over the world with my extra rinse flossing, brushing and taking care of my under-performing tooth. I even learned to chew my food on the right side of my mouth. I did it for almost two years.
What I did not realize, however, that the rest of my teeth weren’t getting enough love and attention from me. They continued to carry the heavy load and maintained the bright smile. But all was not well.
Even after all my care and attention number 11 did not make it. It had to be removed and a bone graft and implant put in its place. After all of that drama my dental hygienist said I now needed “deep cleaning’ my gums because I had neglected the rest of the guys. So hundreds of dollars later and two sessions of blasting, prodding and whatever else “deep cleaning” does, I’m on the road of recovery.
Too frequently, we manage people the same way. Instead of giving our attention and resources to those who are doing well so that they can do better and accomplish more, we tend to spend most of our time and effort with the under performer. We look over their shoulders, check their work constantly, we don’t trust them with much, and they take the bulk of our preoccupation. Often the result is the same as my number 11 tooth: they ended up gone and the team weakened from our neglect.
Have you ever spent a lot of time and effort with someone only to see them not make it? What happened?