Nobody wants to admit this, but good people are the ones who kill startups

You keep your great people and terminate the bad people- we all do that. But it’s the merely good people that will kill you.

“Steve is a good guy”, you tell yourself. He didn’t do anything so egregious that he deserves getting fired.

And maybe his performance will improve if you give him more time. After all, he’s relatively new and you feel guilt from not having as much time as you’d like to answer his every question multiple times.

Perhaps Steve is friends with another teammate, which creates an awkward situation. Maybe he has a new wife or has a kid on the way and you know they need the money. Or it’s Christmas. Nobody gets fired during Christmas, right?

But the trouble with merely good is that you’re spending so much time on them while neglecting your star performers. Because the squeaky wheel gets the grease, you’re penalizing your best people.

Unless your company or group doesn’t have to be efficient, you should be spending at least 50% of your time on the top 10% of your people if you want to maximize productivity.

That leaves no room for the “good” people that you’d very much like to keep around. It’s not that you’re a heartless manager or don’t care– see it as you stealing time from those who deserve it and have earned it.

My mentor, Al Casey, who was CEO of American Airlines, taught me that there are 3 types of managers- those who are loved, those who get results, and those who do both.

95% of people are in the first two categories. The loved ones are pushovers who don’t enforce the rules, so their teams don’t feel any discomfort or need to improve their performance. The results-oriented managers are often taskmasters- the bosses mocked by Dilbert and Office Space.


But the managers who are loved and get results are those who have high-performance teams to start with, then have clear standards. If you are frustrated with the merely good people, I assure you that you aren’t keeping or attracting the high performers, as they see they aren’t getting love.

A great team member is not just slightly better than a good employee. They are TEN times better or more.


One of our star FB ad specialists, Jason, might cost double what a good employee makes, but their output is 20-50 times better. We don’t have to hold his hand, he achieves stellar results in an hour that an average specialist can’t do in 50 hours, and is better all around.

Have you identified Jason and Steve?

The longer you wait, the worse it is for morale.

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