The Life Raft Exercise: Who’s the Deadwood on Your Team?
This exercise can help supervisors, managers and leaders clearly identify their high-performers, low performers, training priorities and the “deadwood” on their team…
Ask your supervisors/managers to picture their entire team, from the highest paid to the lowest paid, from the best through the average to the worst performers. Give them a minute to do so. Now ask them to fire the entire group. Ask them to throw EVERYONE on their team into the “Sea of Unemployment”; literally bobbing out in an ocean of uncertainty.
Now ask your leaders to imagine that they are the only one safe aboard a giant Life Raft, and they are paddling into the midst of all these bobbing team member survivors. Pose these questions to the group (ask them to answer to themselves):
“Who will you paddle to first and pull into your LifeRaft? Who will you paddle to second, third, fourth, fifth…tenth, fourteenth, fifteenth, etc?”
Now pause again and then ask: “Who will you clearly leave bobbing out there on that Sea of Unemployment?”
There will most likely be knowing nods and nervous giggles from your group after that question.
Here’s your closer: “Now those people you picture bobbing out there are most likely your ‘deadwood’. But before you make the decision that’s best for your team (letting them go), you may need to invest in training them first.
People will not perform for one of three reasons: they either don’t know, can’t do, or don’t care. If they don’t know or can’t do, those are training issues, so invest in more eductaion. If they don’t care, get rid of them (after following all applicable HR rules and regulations!)
Give them a job with the competition.
Moral: Sometimes we add to our team by subtracting from it. If you have deadwood on your team the key leadership questions are “Did I inherit it…or create it?”