BLOG VIEW: Cutting Off The Weakest Links

Do you remember Anne Robinson? She was the stern host of the TV game show ‘The Weakest Link,’ and her trademark was fixing an icy gaze on the losing contestant and muttering in a severe voice: ‘You are the weakest link – goodbye!’

Robinson's TV persona made for entertaining viewing, but I wish it could be funneled into the business world. The weakest link, as the celebrated cliche insists, defines the strength of a chain. But too often, companies find themselves with a surplus of weakest links – with predictably dismal results.

In this fraying economy, no business can afford to have weakest links in his or her chain. Of course, not everyone can assume the acute demeanor of Anne Robinson and summarily dismiss underachievers with nary a blink of remorse. Yet at the same time, keeping or even protecting the weakest link employees will only serve to bring about a loss of sales and the rise of a poor reputation.

In the mortgage banking industry, there is a wide variety of weakest links ranging from reception desk to the C-Suite. Like fingerprints, no two weakest link employees are alike. And like fingerprints, they smudge up a clean and clear picture with unwanted clumsiness.

In many cases, the disasters created by these weakest link employees never get discovered until it is too late. I suspect that such employees played a role in bringing about much of the current crisis facing the industry.

But, shockingly, there are still too many managers and senior executives who will gladly overlook poorly done jobs or cover up for their under-performing staff members. In many offices, good help may be hard to find, but bad help is harder to get rid of.

This situation is never acceptable in the best of times, and it is clearly unacceptable in today's environment. At a time when mortgage banking is suffering and too many highly qualified people have lost their jobs, it is incumbent upon the senior management across the industry to be sure that everyone is able to do their jobs professionally and efficiently.

Really, there should be no place in today's industry for people who cannot do their jobs. A weakest link employee can easily damage a company's reputation, which in turn can damage sales, which in turn can put the company out of business if the revenue stream dries up.

Perhaps the Anne Robinson example is a bit cruel – after all, she was playing for TV laughs with her mean demeanor. But employees who do a lousy job are nothing to laugh about, particularly when the weakest link starts to bring down the chain.

– Phil Hall, editor, Secondary Marketing Executive

(Please address all comments regarding this opinion column to hallp@sme-online.com)

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