Is Your Superstar Employee Really Helping Your Business?

3 min read · 11 years ago


As your business gets more complex, those early superstar employees can actually hurt progress. Here's why.

Building a business that can scale involves many rites of passage. The first, and usually the most difficult, is firing the people who stand in your way. And it's usually that star employee that has to go.

The need to remove top performers usually occurs when it's time to institute more systems and processes because your growing business has become more complex.

To a founder/owner or business leader, the path seems simple. Install the required systems and processes, get through this brief period of whitewater, then grow the business to new heights using the new systems and processes as a solid bedrock for doing so.

But there's usually one person (or maybe more than one) for whom this isn't so obvious: the maverick big dog (MBD).

Meet the Maverick Big Dog.

'Big dogs' are the hard-charging, get-it-done operators who worked every hour God sends (and some) to build the success of the business in the early days. Loyal to a fault and powerfully effective, the big dog quickly builds sweat equity with the founding group by sheer effort. Most visionary business leaders have at least one big dog without whom they know they would not–could not–have built a successful business.

Big dogs are good…in the early days of a business. But when the business grows and becomes more complex, some big dogs switch from being a great asset to being a painful liability.

For maverick big dogs, the imposition of systems and processes does two things, both of which for them, is incredibly painful: it greatly dilutes their previously hard-earned freedom and autonomy; and it threatens their special relationship with the leadership group.

Before, the MBDs came and went as they pleased. They were at the top of the totem pole and occupied a special place in the organization–the one that they had carved out through hard work and sacrifice. They essentially set their own agenda, safe in the knowledge that the strong bond of loyalty they had built with the founder/owner protected them from anyone else's interference.

Now with new systems and processes in place, the maverick big dog is expected to complete the same forms, attend the same meetings, submit the same reports as everyone else.

And guess what? They hate it.

But here's the real problem.

The problem for the founder/owner or business leader isn't just the existence of a newly disgruntled big dog. it's the resulting threat to the entire organization.

Because at their worst, MBD's don't just buckle down and work through the new situation they find themselves in. Instead, they rankle at the process-driven, cross-functional approach that’s required.

They cavil, whine, whinge, complain, undermine, and generally make life difficult for everyone working with and around them. They cause dissension, build an insurgent group of like-minded people and force onto the organization a ‘them and us’ mindset.

How to identify a MBD.

Signs that you have a maverick big dog on your hands include if one of your employees says following:

-"We never get anything done around here anymore. All we do is talk, talk, talk."

– "What do you want me to do – sit in meetings all day or get this [insert important task] done?"

-"Back in the day…things used to be different."

-"We're not the business we used to be. We've lost our family feeling / soul / culture."

-"Nobody respects the old ways of doing things any more."

You’ll be faced with some or all of these dilemmas while you ponder what to do with them – but there’s only one solution, if you’re going to build a scalable business: Fire the maverick big dog that's holding you back.

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