Pebbles in Your Shoe

CIO Magazine ran an article entitled, “Ten Mistakes CIO’s Too Often Make” written by Susan H. Cramm, former CIO and vice president of IT at Taco Bell and CFO and executive vice president at Chevys, a Taco Bell subsidiary.

I was thunderstruck by her ninth mistake—Pretend that your organizational weeds are really untended flowers.

My mind immediately went to a comparison with what it is like to spend a day walking with a pebble in your shoe. If you haven’t done this before, imagine a pebble in your shoe, not just for 5 seconds, but what I is like to have a small hard rock under your foot for 12 hours.

It hurts, it moves around in the shoe sometimes disappearing and then re-appearing in a different place. Most people attempt to compensate by walking differently, thus affecting their posture or stride, causing pain to the back and hip in their effort to minimize the discomfort.

Too often, organizations lose their way by tolerating performance or behavioral pebbles that should be dealt with immediately. Because taking an action may cause a manager to “look bad”, “develop a reputation” or in some other way appear to be poor leaders, managers develop a pattern of working around or coping with a problem rather than dealing with it.

Unfortunately, in the desire to avoid a confrontation with the mediocre subordinate, the work around solution often creates another problem like the hip and back pain derived from a pebble. Your staff knows incompetence when they see it. They resent doing extra and covering for someone else who doesn’t carry their weight. The bad job market is over and talented people will leave rather than continue to be taken advantage of. How smart is a manager to bring in a consultant to solve the problem created by a mistake in hiring?

Furthermore, the poor performer wastes your time by causing you invest time that you could be using on strategic work to create tactical solutions caused by their performance.

This market climate is one where you have an opportunity to replace poor performers with hungry eager staff. If remedial training to support the improvement of a subordinate is either unavailable or fails to achieve the intended outcome, there is no time like now to identify a superior talent and solve your problem.

Why walk around with a pebble for twelve hours when you can stop, remove your shoe and get rid of the unpleasantness in less than a minute?

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