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Monday, March 19, 2018

Rank and Yank

Organizations that have a very high priority on winning see personnel transition as an unfortunate part of the game. Witness the hubbub over the seeming revolving door at the White House and with the Trump appointments. This past week we saw the termination of the Secretary of State and rumors of possible departures of the President’s National Security Advisor and White House Chief of Staff. ABC News reported this week that barely more than a year into the Trump administration, more than a dozen notable members of both the White House and the administration at large have left their posts.

Let’s face it. Donald Trump likes to win. And he’s willing to part ways with talented people to put a team together that he feels best suits his leadership style and preferences.

Why is media shocked by this? It happens in every administration, but perhaps not to this degree. Transitioning a government cannot help but be messy.

Before we get too upset with the seeming cutthroat nature of this, I suggest we take a reality check from the world of sports. Or business.

Free agency season in the National Football League just provided more enormous salaries to a fair number of players. Some of them who are not among the greats of the game. But they fill much needed positions. As as result, teams are saying goodbye to some very fine players to meet the team’s “salary cap.”

Look at the Green Bay Packers. This team just cut their talented receiver Jordy Nelson. Upon hearing the news, their top-rated QB Aaron Rodgers created, in essence, an “ode to Jordy Nelson’s departure.”

This annual transition within sports organizations happens every year. And while fans bicker about who should stay and who should leave, there is often little compassion shown to those who go. Why? Winning. It’s all about winning.

And it’s true in business as well. Famed CEO Jack Welch (formerly of General Electric) strongly believed that managers should assess their employees every year. He would have them divide their personnel into three categories: the top 20 percent, the middle 70 percent, and the bottom 10 percent. The Wall Street Journal did a summary of his thinking a while back. (Link below.)

As for those in the top 20 percent, Welch advised management to shower them with “praise, affection, and various and generous financial rewards.” He also advised against the sharing of financial rewards over a much larger group.

As for the middle 70 percent, these team members should be coached and trained and pushed hard with thoughtful goal-setting. All this, hoping that these people would move into the top group. In the words of Jack Welch, “You do not want to lose the vast majority of your middle 70–-you want to improve them.”

And what about that bottom 10 percent? The hardline leader Mr. Welch states, “There is no sugarcoating this. They have to go.” He explained this philosophy in more depth in his 2005 book titled—get ready—Winning.

This practice, of course, has critics referring to this as “rank and yank.” It seems heartless on one level. But the pursuit of championship teams often takes on this mindset.

I belong to a different kind of fellowship. Our leader puts a high price tag to be part of His team. All who seek to follow Him get the same message. Three times in the Gospels in the Bible it’s repeated, “And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.’” (Luke 9:23, ESV)

But here’s the thing. He welcomes EVERYBODY. And nobody who takes up His cause needs to worry about getting cut. There is no bottom 10 percent.

And oddly enough, in the game of life now and for eternity, Jesus is always the winner.

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Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays from 4-6 PM Central. To listen outside the Chicago area, tune to for live streaming or podcasts, or download the AM1160 app.

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