“You can’t lead people by pushing unless you want to push them out the door.”

Great leaders lead from the front. It’s called inspiration. They seldom lack good people wanting to join their team, and never wanting to leave. Poor leaders push from behind and call it motivation. They are always looking for good people, but never seem able to find enough. When they find one, they seldom stay long.

Our English word motivation comes from two Latin words meaning, “To come from behind and push.” Motivation is an internal decision, a decision no leader can make for their individual team members. Motivational seminars are a myth. Pushing people makes you tired and irritates them.

Great leaders inspire their team by modeling a spirit of excellence and passionate behavior out front, not trying to push them across the finish line. Trying to inspire unmotivated team members is tiring and it produces very little fruit. I liken it to trying to make a wildcat eat wet noodles.

If you have team members who constantly lag behind in their attitude or effort, regardless of their ability, title or position, rest assured it greatly affects team morale and results. If you don’t quickly correct their behavior, the rest of the team soon loses respect for your leadership ability.

Improve them or release them. Without a desire for self-adjustment, underperforming people seldom get better with time no matter how much you push, motivate, or try to inspire. The first time it crosses your mind that they are not a good fit for the team, regardless of their attitude and effort, is when you start planning for their exit.

If they are a good fit and desire help, start the correction process without delay. Behavior and attitude seldom get better with age and without your intervention. There are only three reasons that keep people from performing up to your expectations. First, they don’t know exactly what you want. Second, they don’t how to perform what you want competently. Third, they just don’t want to, no motivation.

If they don’t want to improve, you are better off losing them than losing your best team members, or respect for your leadership. A decision you can hardly afford to make in today’s tight labor market.

Who on your team needs to step it up? Who needs to step away? If you are not going to start the repair process immediately, rest assured the sharper knives in the drawer are looking for a better leader to follow while you delay.

Who can you afford to lose?