Stressed Out?: It Could be Time to Reassess Your Direct Reports
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Stressed Out?: It Could be Time to Reassess Your Direct Reports

How many direct reports do you have? Consider these four scenarios.

  1. All of your direct reports have just submitted their resignations. You can either accept their resignations or keep them on. Based purely on their performance, how many of your direct reports are absolute keepers? If it's not 100 percent, you may have issues.
  2. Imagine you've just started at a new position in the same industry, just a short distance away. You have no moral, legal, or ethical obligations and you can take as many of your direct reports with you to the new company as you want, occupying the same positions. How many will you take? Again, if not 100 percent, you have issues.
  3. As a franchisor, imagine you have a "do-over" and can re-select your franchisee base. How many of your franchisees would you keep? We already know the answer to this one.
  4. As a franchisee, think about your staff. How many of them are absolute keepers? This should be a no-brainer, since your customer retention is determined by employees earning the least amount of money--and it's your front-facing employees who have the greatest impact on your customers.

The first two questions should be asked periodically about your direct reports. Whenever you get to the point where you are willing to accept a resignation or not take someone to your new opportunity, you need to address this. If they are no longer the right person for that seat on your bus, you need to provide them with the necessary or additional skills, cognitive coaching, or possibly move them to a different position.

I've asked these questions to thousands of CEOs, and I'm always amazed at how few of their direct reports are keepers. That's right! Sometimes the answers are plausible, such as the direct report is too new in their position to know, and sometimes your direct reports are too old, meaning they are planning on retiring in the next several years. Regardless, when anything less than 100 percent of your direct reports are keepers, the responsibility falls on your shoulders and you need to take action.


Consider this question: How many days a week when you go home are you emotionally or mentally tired? The more days a week you are drained indicates that 1) you are doing things that either go against your natural grain, or 2) you are compensating for things your direct reports are unable or unwilling to do.

In the first case, you are likely stretching your personality to compensate for what is not your natural style. For example, imagine that you have a relaxed, methodical, calm, and patient style. "Stretching" would involve being more driving, putting more pressure on yourself and others, and being forced to make snap decisions and move things along more quickly than you'd do naturally. This requires a high level of energy. Energy is a consumable, and when you're out of energy you slow down, become drained, and eventually may become sick. Another example is having an accommodating, agreeable nature--which is great for a team member, but holding others more accountable and pushing for results requires a great deal of energy. When you're out of energy, it leaves you exhausted.

So there actually are two messages here. The first is about employee selection. When you have the right people in the right seats on the proverbial bus, you get the right results. However, when you've selected or promoted the wrong person, their failure causes you to pick up the slack, and this is exhausting. It's important to know that this exhaustion is normal for what you are going through. It becomes pathological only when you don't understand the cause.

The second message is about franchisee selection. This is far more critical--and more difficult--than dealing with employees. You can always change employees, but with franchisees you'll have to live with your choices for 10 years or more. Since my introduction to franchising some 15 years ago I have benchmarked the behavioral requirements for hundreds of franchisors. To receive a copy of a benchmark study on franchisee selection, drop an email to the address below with "franchisee" in the subject line.

Bill Wagner is CEO and co-founder of Accord Management Systems in Westlake Village, Calif. The firm works with franchisors and other franchising professionals to get the people side of the business right through behavioral assessments. Contact him at 805-230-2100 or

Published: February 27th, 2014

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Franchise Update Magazine: Issue 4, 2013
Franchise Update Magazine: Issue 4, 2013

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