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When firing a top performer pays off

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in Leaders & Managers,People Management

As sales manager for a fledgling magazine, C. Richard Weylman needed to generate enough print ads to keep the new publication afloat. He supervised a team of 15 salespeople.

One of the salespeople routinely outperformed his peers, tallying the best results month after month. Yet his high production came at a cost: He rejected the organization’s culture of cooperation and its customer-centric philosophy.

Weylman was aware of his top producer’s tendency to bully buyers into saying yes. But the sales kept coming in.

Eventually, however, customers began to complain. They told Weylman about the salesman’s disrespectful attitude and his inability to deliver on his promises.

For Weylman, the final straw was when he noticed that other salespeople were starting to fall under the top producer’s influence. Their increasing abrasiveness risked alienating even more customers.

Weylman met privately with the salesman and asked, “How can I help you refocus?”

“My approach works. Tough is good,” the salesman replied.

Undeterred, Weylman admitted he had given the salesman too much leeway for too long—and that the situation needed to improve. Weylman added that he’d support the salesman in any way possible, as long as he changed his behavior.

When the salesman repeatedly insisted he’d keep doing what he was doing, Weylman fired him. Within a month, sales nearly doubled as the other 14 sales reps concluded that the organization truly believed in treating its customers with respect—and would take bold steps to do so.

— Adapted from The Power of Why, C. Richard Weylman, New Harvest.

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