Coach Your People Up, or Coach Your People Out

Rapidly growing companies and companies that consistently scale year over year are faced with a unique challenge. As a leader in a growing company you have to recognize this challenge and be willing to address it.

At PFSbrands we are coming up on our 20 year anniversary this year. We’ve shown a 19 year track record of double-digit growth and been recognized by INC Magazine as one of the fastest growing privately held companies in the United States for the past 9 years in a row. Only .04% of the INC 5000 winners can claim the same thing. Honestly, if I would have known about the INC 5000 list before the first time applying for the honor, our company would likely have a 15 year track record on the prestigious list. Our entire team is proud of this accomplishment, and trust me, it takes an entire team of dedicated people to make this happen

Growing companies must have a learning culture:

The leaders and all employees must have a continuous improvement mindset and be willing to consistently learn new skills. Everyone must be willing to learn at a pace consistent with the company’s growth. They must be willing to adapt to the changes occurring which include: new talent being added, culture changing, organizational changes, turnover, and much more.

As the founder of PFSbrands I’ve lived all of these changes. My role has consistently changed over the years and it will continue to change as we experience more growth. I’ve challenged myself to learn something new every day. I’ve surrounded myself with awesome leaders, coaches, and mentors that challenge me and hold me accountable. I’ve consistently set my goals high and I wake up every day with a positive attitude and a belief that these goals can be achieved.

One of the most frustrating things for any coach (and I’ve always viewed my role as a coaching position) is to have individuals that can’t seem to “make the leap”. In other words, these are great people that simply can’t change their ways to continue to fit within the organization as it grows. They either can’t look in the mirror and see their weaknesses that need to be corrected or they simply don’t want to put in the effort to correct these weaknesses.

At PFSbrands we’ve continuously improved our hiring processes and we usually hire individuals with a skillset that enables them to scale with us. However, occasionally we still have individuals that are challenged to “make the leap”. We work diligently with these individuals to find them a role on our team in which they can excel. When corrections need to be made, we sit down and have honest conversations with them about what needs to be improved upon. We provide them every opportunity and every tool we can to help them adapt. We do everything possible to “coach them up”.

In and of itself, this is more than most companies will do. It’s a lot of effort to sit down routinely with every employee and have conversations about their career path. However, the companies that are truly able to scale year over year take it a step farther.

The companies that are able to scale up consistently have a unique mindset. For those people that ultimately can’t “make the leap”, you have to “coach them out”. You have to help these individuals realize that your company is no longer the best fit for them. Ultimately, when you have an established company culture in which the majority of employees work with the same mindset, this committed team is constantly working to help “coach out” those individuals that are no longer a great fit. If you truly want to establish a culture of winning and growing, you must always be working to ensure that you have the best possible talent on the team.

You may be asking, “What happens if they don’t get it?” or “What happens if you can’t coach them out?”

That’s where most leaders fail. Most leaders can’t make the tough decision that is necessary. There’s only one thing left that you can do. You have to let this person go, regardless of how long they have been with the company and what contributions they’ve made to the company. If they don’t fit culturally or if they are not performing in their roles, you have to let them go. While these are tough conversations, if you’ve done everything you can to help them along the way and if you’ve done everything you can to communicate expectations, you are justified in making this decision.

Here’s a few tips from my experience:

  1. Work to help the person find another job or allow them some time to find another job if they are a good person. In most cases, these people that don’t “make the leap” are still great people, just no longer a fit for your organization.
  2. When it’s done correctly (and I’ve not always done it correctly), most people feel relieved and have an element of respect for you. In my case, I’ve been able to hold onto a positive relationship in about 90% of the cases. Most of the other 10% never could take accountability for their actions. In one particular case early in my business’s life cycle, I simply screwed up and didn’t handle it correctly. Even though I made the decision I needed to make, I wish I had that one back to better handle the departure.
  3. Generally, when you finally make a move to responsibly off board someone, the rest of the team wonders what took you so long.
  4. The day after the person is gone, you feel a sense of “relief” to have the issue behind you and the ability to focus your effort on productive tasks that help to grow your business.
  5. Several times I’ve gotten a thank you note a few weeks later for doing the employee a favor.
  6. In all cases I’ve been able to replace the person with a more solid contributor that better fits the culture at the present time. In many cases, we’ve recruited a person with a much different skill set that better meets the needs of the company at the present time.

If you want to scale your business, focus on helping your employees become more successful. In the process, be mindful of their ability to work within a growing team that has a lot of changes happening. Most important, if you are the leader of a company, be willing to have the tough conversations and make the tough decisions. Don’t delegate this responsibility and don’t count on your inexperienced leaders to make these tough decisions.

As a leader, It’s YOUR job to “coach your people up, or coach your people out”.

If you don’t, you will likely see your company’s performance flat line or decline.

Talented people with the desire to succeed is one of the key elements required to scale your business.

One thought on “When Companies Outgrow People”

  • Well said Shawn! I couldn’t agree more. The tough conversations that need to happen are the ones that bring the most stress relief once they take place. Too often you build up stress/anxiety avoiding the conversation which simply has to take place for growth to happen.

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