Small Businesses Should Model Pro Sports, Apply Trading Deadline




  • August 3, 2015

    shutterstock_268854275A few days ago, July 31 to be exact, was Major League Baseball’s annual “trading deadline.”


    It’s the point in the season when team rosters have to be finalized to be eligible for post season play.


    It’s on, and around, this deadline that often a lot of players get moved from team to team as organizations try to acquire the missing pieces in building their championship caliber team.


    Many times, some very good productive athletes are traded away because they’re either not the best fit for the mix of talent determined necessary to make the leap to championship caliber, or because the role the athlete fills is a strength of that team and they can use that athlete as leverage to fill weaknesses.


    Either way, lineup changes are made to improve organizational performance.


    Rarely do professional sports teams hold on too long to athletes when upgrades in positions are needed.


    Small business leaders could learn something from professional sports teams application of the “trading deadline.”


    I encourage clients to apply the trading deadline when all other approaches to improving employee performance have failed to achieve desired, and necessary, results.


    No client has ever come back to me after making a change in a position by “trading” the employee and said, “you know, Skip, we let that person go too soon. They’ve gone to our competition and are killing our business now.”


    No, the conversation is more like, “gee, Skip, I wish I had made that move 6-months or a year ago, at least.”


    Applying the “trading deadline” in small business must be much different from how it’s applied n professional sports, but it still can and should be done.


    Here are the steps necessary to apply the “trading deadline” to upgrade a position in your small business with a higher performing employee:



    1. Start with the “Clean Slate Strategy” – This means giving the employee a clean slate to start anew in performing their job. Past performance level is no longer relevant moving forward.
    2. Create new performance expectations – Create very clear performance, behavior and attitude goals and benchmarks the employee is required to step up to over a reasonable period of time (three to six months).
    3. Create regular (weekly/bi-weekly) check-ins – Have consistent conversations about progress, or lack thereof, towards the new performance expectations.
    4. Identify coaching/training requirements – Offer the team member as much coaching, mentoring, training opportunities as possible that you both agree may be of value in helping the individual achieve the desired performance level.
    5. Make long-term commitment or make the “trade” – After the prescribed probationary time, decide whether the team member has fulfilled the new performance expectations. If they have, continue to monitor their progress with less frequent but still consistent (monthly) performance conversations. If they haven’t, make the “trade,” by terminating the employee giving them the opportunity to find a better fit for themselves elsewhere, and replace the individual with a new hire, either internally, or from outside.

    These five steps will help you upgrade your team, moving it towards championship caliber performance, while respecting the present team members by providing them every opportunity to step up to the necessary, required performance.


    As one of my colleagues always says, “you do not terminate employees, employees earn termination through consistent non-performance in the face of overwhelming feedback!”

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