When It Comes to Your Leadership Team, Nice Guy Doesn’t Cut It

By Mark Moses

I was at an annual planning session recently with a client. Leonard, an employee who is a non-performer, came up in the discussion.

“Leonard is a really nice guy,” said my client.

My response: “Nice guy is not a profession.”

The longest time in a leader’s life is the time between losing confidence in someone and doing something about it.

As a test, just ask yourself, “How many people have I fired too soon?

Here’s what we know to be true at CEO Coaching International: companies that perform better than the rest have the best management and leadership teams. They don’t compromise on top talent in any of their key positions. And they don’t get sentimental about longtime employees who helped get the company where it is now, but just aren’t good enough to fit with where the company is today.

Case-in-point: My client, Rich Balot. When I met Rich, his chain of Verizon Wireless dealerships was on the verge of bankruptcy. To his credit, rather than scrambling for quick fixes or folding up shop, Rich had the courage to set a BIG goal to turn his business around: $1 billion in revenue in ten years. Rich broke that goal down into quarterly targets, supported by measurable daily activities, all designed to escalate the business toward that lofty billion-dollar goal.

There was just one problem: Rich’s head of sales—a nice guy, and a close, personal friend—simply didn’t have the chops to save the business, let alone lead the company to Rich’s BIG goal.

So Rich did what effective CEOs do: he made a hard choice, and did the right thing for his business. Rich upgraded his leadership team to a top-notch VP of sales and CFO. With that “A” talent in place, not only did Rich hit $1 billion, he did it in five years instead of ten.

If you want to accelerate your growth rate, it is mission critical to have the right people in the right jobs all the time.

As a quick exercise, take a moment and rate each person on your leadership team: “A,” “B,” or “C.” How can you manage those B’s into A’s in the next 90 days?

And the C’s? Why are they still working for you? The fact is, if an employee is not working out for you, the job is likely not working out for them either. In most cases, exiting your company is the push they need to find a new opportunity that is a much better fit.

When hiring a key person for your leadership team, think about where you want the company to be in three years. Don’t hire for where you are today, hire for where you want to be tomorrow. And when you’ve identified the people who can take your business to that next level, do whatever it takes to get them on board.

Your friends can be nice guys. And your team members can be nice guys, too. But if they’re not performing, no amount of niceness will bridge that gap between a business that’s just good enough, and a business that’s headed toward something BIG.


Mark Moses is a speaker, serial entrepreneur, top business coach, and bestselling author of Make Big Happen with ForbesBooks. Learn more at ceocoachinginternational.com.

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