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Monday, May 7, 2012

What if You Ran Your Office Like a Crab Boat?

picture credit: Discovery Channel
You don't have to spend much time with me to know I love Deadliest Catch, partly because I love reality shows and partly because I value what these guys do. They work hard for a lucrative payout. It's the embodiment of the American Dream (or at least what it used to be).

I also love the show as it depicts men in their original form, before they started waxing, filing and plucking (but that's a post for an entirely different kind of blog). As much as pampered metrosexuals could learn from these men, corporate America could learn a bit too.

On a crab boat there's a fair amount of nepotism. It's not unusual for boats to be family-owned and employ people the captains know be it family, distant cousins of other fishermen, childhood neighbors or friends of friends. It is difficult to get a spot on one of these boats without "knowing" someone. Life in office America is similar. We hire people we have connections to, people with backgrounds we're familiar with, before we turn to complete strangers. Of course, our pool from which to draw potential candidates is much larger than these Bering Sea explorers. It's infinitely easier to get someone to run a social media campaign on their laptop from Starbucks than it is to convince someone to pull a thousand pound crab pot out of frigid cold waters and 40 foot swells. Yet, both captains and CEOs have their share of issues with bad hires. Candidates always think they are up to the job at hand.

Crabbers, however, are quick to learn who is effective in their role and who is not. They run a very lean operation and everyone must be pulling their weight at all times. If a team member is unable to work at the levels that everyone else does, it becomes painfully obvious from both a safety and production standpoint. Corporate America misses the boat on this. (Promise that's the first and last bad pun.) We tend to keep people in roles they are not well-suited for because we like them. Worse yet we promote them because they've been here the longest or they've been successful at a given role. Sometimes we even transfer them to a different department or a different hiring manager because they are doing a lousy job where they are or having difficulties with other employees and moving them is just easier.  We work human resources like a jigsaw puzzle trying all sorts of angles and eventually making the piece/person fit.

It's just lazy management. It takes work to get employees producing to your expectations. A conversation about goals and quotas may need to occur. And sometimes it even requires a manager to admit a bad hiring decision was made.

Whether pushing papers over a faux wood desk or landing a full pot with icicles hanging from my hat, having the right team behind you is key to your success. If you don't have the right team in place you must evaluate how far off of that goal you are. Is it the process or the person and can it be fixed? Can the greenhorn learn how to be a valuable member of the team or are they ill-suited for the stress and strains of the job at hand? The sooner you are able to answer those questions, the sooner you can begin in either investing in their professional growth or cutting bait.

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