While low engagement is flogged as a leading cause of poor business performance, incompetence is an obvious, but often, down-played factor. Leaders don’t like to talk about it. Even “experts” like to gloss over it. When relating my observation about the cause of an organization’s awful results as “gross negligence of key employees,” another consultant told me that “gross negligence” is not a real reason. I beg to differ—it is a great reason. If gross negligence exists, what other reasons does one need?
In sports, player statistics paint a stark picture. It is clear who is good and who is not. In business, cause is often not so clear, but sometimes it is as clear as the summer sky in Arizona. If so, why hesitate?
The Wall Street Journal recently published the obituary of the former CEO of FMC, Robert Malott. In it, Mr. Malott was quoted as saying “The frustration of dealing with loyal, hardworking and incompetent people was very hard for me,” adding “I tolerated incompetence longer than I should have.”
Let’s get real. There are many situations that are caused by incompetence that can only be alleviated by having people in place that can do a competent job. We do a disservice to our organizations when we down-play incompetence and hope against hope that more training, coaching, or higher engagement will have any effect.