Fire your high-performing people; talent doesn’t always breed success.

One of the challenges with owning and running a business is what to do with poor performers. How do you motivate people to improve, follow the proper processes, and make an impact on your business and your customers? This fall I was able to hear Cameron Herold, former CEO of 1-800-Got-Junk, speak and he’s had a lot of experience in this area.

Enter the talent axis.


He showed us a graph with quadrants that spoke to talent and attitude and what to do with the people in each quadrant. Let’s start with the easy ones.

C: Low talent employees with a bad attitude.


What do you do with employees that you find in quadrant C, with a bad attitude and low talent? Well, if it isn’t obvious, you fire them. They are not the kind of employees you need in your business, and they are not worth the investment of your time to get them to buy-in to what you’re tying to achieve.


D: Low talent employees with a great attitude.

What about quadrant D? These people have a great attitude, they want to come and work hard and are committed to being great team players, but they don’t have the talent to make the impact you want. The answer is you train them. Cameron says that you can’t teach attitude but you can teach a skill, so do not let this person go, but instead invest in them so that their performance will improve.


B: High talent employees with a great attitude.


You’ve got an employee who is killing it for your business. They are a true leader with their attitude and talent. If you’re like the rest of us in that room, you would have said “to promote them”. Cameron, referencing his own experiences, says this could be detrimental to your business. The person who is the high performer in that area doesn’t necessary need to be promoted. If you pull them from a position where they are excelling into a position with more responsibility and perks, it could be detrimental to their success. If the position is out of their wheelhouse – you may be setting them up to fail. He suggests that instead, find out what that person wants and give it to them. Motivate them to continue the momentum. Maybe they want more money, more time with family, a car allowance, an office with a window, or who knows what else! Find what motivates them to excel and do whatever is within your means to invest in that for them. Make sure you’re discovering what motivates your employees and customize their rewards so you can reap the best return on investment (ROI) for your business.


A: High talent employees with a bad attitude.


The last quadrant is the high performers who have a poor attitude. These are your top sales people who march to the beat of their own drum and are not team players. I’m sure you’ve worked next to these people at some point in your life. It’s obvious they are good at their jobs and this success allows them to get away with being a cancerous lesion to your team and culture. It’s hard to complain about someone who is doing so much for your business right? Wrong. Cameron Harold was adamant that you cannot teach attitude and that it’s a more important asset than talent. So, if your highest performer has a poor attitude and it doesn’t add to the whole of your business, you actually need to fire them! The damage they are doing to your business is more detrimental than the good they are doing to your bottom line.


The room went silent. We were shocked – and there was silence. Is this resonating with you? This statement came from a past CEO of several successful ventures, which rocked the room we were sitting in. When you really think about it, he’s right. You can’t teach attitude. To learn more from Cameron, check out his Double Double blog

Be careful who you hire.

The next time you’re in an interview, make sure you’re looking for passionate individuals who fit the mold of your team. If you’re currently working with people who aren’t interested in making everyone else around them better, it’s time to do the hard thing; put your business growth and your corporate culture first and let your high performers go!

Tell us what you think.