I owe you big time!

Don’t you think it would be best for your company if all those that work there knew exactly what is expected of them?

This is not a rhetorical question. It is something that deserves time to digest and to answer truthfully.

Jack Welch, former head of GE, has written a weekly column that sometimes uses the “Dear Abby” format. One query asked about loyalty of employees and the role it plays in an organization.

At the heart of Welch’s reply was this: “… these days, it’s far more common for managers to protect and reward employees who consistently deliver results …”

Welch elaborated by stating that companies can only win when they have the best players acting in the best interests of the company.

Let’s define what winning is. Winning means having a concrete objective as the desired result, for the company, for each department and for every employee.

This can only happen when hiring managers possess a results-oriented mentality with the desired result being the company goal and not their own personal agenda.

Any manager with hiring and firing authority who isn’t focused on the desired results, who doesn’t buy into the concept of having and achieving goals and shirks being held accountable, odds are that his or her department is filled with underperformers, because people are not being held accountable.

Human Resources is guilty of being complicit in this when they aren’t hardnosed about having honest performance evaluations completed for every employee. HR tops it off by allowing people to be interviewed and then hired that are not results driven and are not focused on achieving goals.

When I finished reading Welch’s article, I realized that most of the organizations where I earned a paycheck were mediocre.

These were companies where the employees received a paycheck. The customers were taken care of. There was positive cash flow and profits. These companies did okay in spite of themselves. But, they had much more potential than was actually realized.

They were mediocre because instead of being focused and driven for results, they valued the loyalty of the employee over business results. This atmosphere allowed and perpetuated people to become and stay complacent.

Top management was unwilling to have candid, rigorous performance discussions with their direct reports. Below that level, middle managers did not want to hold awkward and difficult discussions with underperforming subordinates, so those conversations were delayed. They were delayed so often they never took place.

With lip service being paid to vigorous, candid discussion about the role and results of employees, people settled into a soft and comfortable universe of complacency.

Everyone assumed they were doing a wonderful job because they never heard anything to the contrary in their performance evaluations.

Welch says that “…it’s usually when they’re handing poor, unsuspecting Joe or Mary their pink slip that they (the manager) finally admits: ‘Look, all these years, you came in everyday, and you did your job, but you weren’t actually very good. And now someone has to go, it needs to be you.’ “

One of the worst things the leader of any organization can do is to not define and communicate what winning is for every employee.

Another mistake is not providing clear expectations to managers and employees about what is expected of them so that the company will actually have a good chance to win.

If the leader cannot do these two things, they need to tell their employees “I’m sorry, I owe you big time! It’s my fault you are disengaged and aren’t doing what we need you to do.”