Creative Leadership

Fixing Problem Employees: Keep Them Near The Vision

The great arctic explorer Ernest Shackleton, went on incredibly risky expeditions in Antartica.  As a result, he needed to keep his men focused and motivated because it was a life or death circumstance.  But like every project, he had his share of complainers.

His unique strategy was to keep the complainers close to him. 

So when he divided up work teams, he put the problem employees on his team.  He even had them sleep in his tent at night.  As a result, they didn’t veer off into clicks where their complaints could fester and grow.  Plus, the more time they spent with him, the more time they heard about the vision, the stakes, and the goal from the leader himself.

Our natural tendency as leaders is to distance ourselves from the “problem” people on the team.  But if you can’t get rid of them, do what Shackleton did – keep them close.  It may not only save the project, but save the team as well.

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  1. It will definitely save the project. In addition, I found that in trying this type of thing out (in a church department where I worked), you very rapidly get to the decisive moment re: any ‘problem person’. Some do have to be let go, and some turn around. But boy, do you save time, by jumping into the nexus of the problem and getting alongsside the problem people, rather than pointing fingers from far away across the room/table (if the environment allows it).

    (Great article Phil – I’m reading Branding Faith a 2nd time!)

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