There is a person working with you who has great skills but doesn't fit the culture, how far would you go with trying to help this person to change?


Backwards. I'd make sure that person didn't stay in the company.

"One dirty fish muddies the whole pond"

It's not personal or malicious - they're just not the right fit.

A great skill set, while very important is always secondary to cultural fit if you really want your company to flourish.

Answered 11 years ago

I've built 5 companies, largest had 30 employees and my rule is - especially when you're small - if you're gut tells you their not adding to the output / productivity, let them go so they can go find a position where they'll shine.

It's not cause they aren't a nice person, it's because it's just not a fit - and if you had to ask this question - then you know what you need to do :).

It's also worth noting that startups (< 12 employees) don't have the luxury / systems to mentor coach employees who aren't performing. I believe mentoring is possible, but it takes away from executing and pre-product / market fit, it's dangerous to invest that time with someone who may not work out long term.

Answered 11 years ago

I was on a panel on startup culture a few months ago with John Lilly, former CEO of Mozilla, who shared his view that culture building is part poetry, part pragmatism. The poetry part would say only hire/keep people who share your values and fit the culture. Period. This is the gospel being preached by companies like Zappos, Southwest (and often, me :).

The pragmatism part would say that if there's someone with a unique set of skills that's truly hard to find, it may be worth keeping them on if you can minimize the impact on the culture.

Most of the time, people err way too far on the side of (perceived) pragmatism and keep people who don't fit the culture for too long because they underestimate the negative impact on the team of keeping someone who is a bad fit and the opportunity cost of not having someone who's a great fit, and overestimate the cost of losing that person (loss aversion). I repeatedly encounter situations with my startup CEO clients where they're scared to let someone go, and once they do, performance actually improves overall (even before they've hired a replacement).

Answered 11 years ago

Once hired you must give someone the opportunity to be successful. This means communicating clear expectations about what success looks like in the organization. This should include behaviors as well as tasks. From there the employee has the opportunity to make an informed decision about whether they will or can conform. If they are not able to meet the standards they may self-select out or you will need to terminate. A person who doesn't fit is uncomfortable themselves and creates dissonance amongst your team. They can not stay. Going forward make sure to use great behavioral based interviewing questions so that future hires are a better fit.

Answered 11 years ago

Very dangerous question, so thank you for asking it.

Is the culture based on well defined values and set in stone?

Could that person work solo?

Letting that person go is dangerous as you would not be rewarding great skill sets.

Keeping that person is dangerous as you would threaten your company values (for me, culture is founded on values)

Here is the catch: Keep that person and maintain your company values... and you become a GREAT leader.

I hope you go for GREATNESS.

Again, thank you for asking the question.


Answered 11 years ago

It depends on how strong your culture is, quite frankly. If you've really nailed the culture--connecting what's deeply valued there to what actually drives the success of the enterprise--and this person really doesn't fit, then I'd lean towards helping them find a new job. If they don't value what the system values, it's usually really hard to change that.

On the other hand, it may be an opportunity to look at your culture if you haven't in a while. "Doesn't fit the culture" might be an indicator that the culture is in need of a shift more than that individual.

Answered 11 years ago

Culture < Core Values ... that is the greater question. Does the person align with your Core Values and that of the company. Culture is a product of a number of things ... but the greater and more measurable metric is Core Value fit.

I have made the mistake of keeping staff because they fit the culture, but the fact is that the culture needed improvement and I wasn't aware until much later because we weren't measuring alignment with Core Values on a regular basis. Core Values alignment is the heartbeat of the Organization. I have a number of blog and podcast posts on this subject here ... feel free to check them out (especially the one with Christine Comaford) and let me know if you have any questions.

Good luck!

Answered 10 years ago

If the person expressed strong desire to adapt to a new culture, then I would do everything and anything I could to help them.

If they aren't totally passionate about changing their values, then I would help them find a new opportunity in a organization and culture that was more a match for them.

This is a tough challenge if they really want to change.

If they are anything less than totally committed to this kind of change, then it's impossible and you're better off finding someone who's a match for the culture and teaching them the skills.

If you want to talk more about team building feel free to set up a call.

Answered 9 years ago

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