The Idea Dude


Thursday, June 29, 2006

Beware the alligator smile

I love analogies. It helps me understand my life, the situation and what I need to do to solve problems. It's also my way of explaining things. This morning was spent reviving my long suffering lawn. Much of it was spent eradicating crabgrass. The Merriam-webster dictionary defines insidious as developing so gradually as to be well established before becoming apparent...that is what crabgrass is. They do not stand tall like other weeds but rather blend with your real grass all the while growing long tentacle like roots that spread horizontally beneath the soil, wrapping themselves around innocent healthy grass. Left too late, means major surgery, removing both good and bad grass, leaving a trail of barren soil and the inevitable long period of recuperation.

Made me think of a couple of individuals that became the bane of my life in numerous gigs with software teams. I recognized the symptoms, bright, egotistical, vocal, these people always managed to sound smart and more importantly could argue successfully their indispensibility to the company. I smelt trouble, my gut told me to take action. But being the great believer in people, I spent too much time trying to change them, show them the better way and more importantly, succumbed to the fear that removing them would hurt the team and the company. Fear led to inactivity, to spend more time with them, and in the end, like crabgrass, I only managed to boost their self-esteem, their value in their eyes and in the eyes of the peers. As the Star Wars quote goes...fear leads to hate, hate leads to anger and anger leads to suffering.

Ultimately I made the right decision, I did the culling but sometimes at great personal and team cost. Leave it too late and you will lose a few good men too. Every time, with fail, the team was happier, became stronger and more productive. Every time, without fail, I wondered, "Why did I wait so long?" Probably a combination of fear that I misjudged them, fear that it would hurt the product, the team, the business but perhaps it was fear that it would mean as a leader I had failed to keep the team intact. Now older and hopefully wiser, I realize, that in reality it was a wrong relationship to keep. It was wrong for both the individual and the team and ultimately, they will find a better and more appropriate home elsewhere for their talents and skills...sadly, it's just not here.


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