In my work with leaders, I love using key phrases and definitions that help me to analyze and make decisions. I want to suggest one of these verbal aids to you now.
Leaders are often required to decide about the impact of someone in their firm. It might be a fellow executive or some other type of employee, but the challenge is the same—decide if the person is producing what you need and then decide what to do with them. Promote them? Remove them? Relocate them? Re-train them? You get the point.
My team and I use a tool of analysis that is incredibly simple but that brings great clarity to these types of decisions. We simply ask the leaders we work with to imagine their firm or their team without the person they are making decisions about. What would things look like if this person was not in place?
We call this the Bedford Falls Standard, taking the name from the movie It’s a Wonderful Life. You may remember that in this classic film, the lead character, a fellow named George Bailey, experiences what his town of Bedford Falls would have been like had he never existed. In the movie, the answer is that the town would have been far worse off. But our hero only learned his value by seeing life as it would have been without him. What is important for our purposes is that imagining things without a given person in place helps us know their value.
I once used the Bedford Falls Standard to decide if I should keep a certain woman on my staff. I imagined circumstances without her. Let’s call her Annette. I soon realized that this woman produced very little but did stir up a great deal of strife. When I imagined that she wasn’t in her role, I realized that the main difference was that three or four people who were upset with me would not have been. My relationship with these people was perfectly fine apart from the strife that Annette stirred up with her gossip and complaining. Obviously, I concluded with my fellow team leaders that she needed to go.
What you want to hear about someone on your team is that the people who work with them couldn’t function without them. What you want to conclude is that this person is making a massive contribution, that the firm would be far behind where it is now if they weren’t on the team. You want the Bedford Falls Effect. That town would have been a mere shadow of itself without George Bailey. Yet he, and we, sometimes only realize the value of a person when we imagine them absent.
Look over your team, your employees, those you rely on for your firm’s success. Now, apply the Bedford Falls Standard to each person. Imagine they had never held their current role. Picture the state of things apart from their impact. Be honest. Get the input of others. Let the clarifying light of the Bedford Falls Standard help you.