Firing… this is a sensitive topic and let’s face it, it’s hard to get fired in America but shouldn’t be impossible or done too late. You may have read or heard me say in my Leadership Videos, “Leadership is not for the weak”; and you can be sure your leadership will be tested! When you’re in a professional position of leadership, there will come a time you will be challenged and faced with the dilemma to have the direct and tough conversation with an employee… or not. As difficult or irritating as it may be…believe me, it will become even more difficult and irritating if you don’t!
Remember, everyone that starts with you, your team, and your vision… may not end with you! Perhaps their interests have changed for professional or personal reasons, your goals and vision are no longer aligned, their interactions with others are poor, their skill set is no longer conducive to achieving the evolved vision and mission, and the many other reasons this individual may no longer be a good fit. Whatever the reason, there are two main types of employees that must be held accountable or let go.
I’d like to preface this by stating the overwhelming importance that YOU as the leader must hold yourself accountable first… then EVERYONE else. Now, throughout this process… beware of the two types I previously mentioned, “The Potential” and The High Performer!
This is the individual you knew did not have all of the knowledge, skill-sets, and experience needed for the job but was impressively eager to tackle it! You gave them a shot, yet their best shot has not been enough; and even worse… is damaging to your business, the team, your reputation, and the organization. Their lack of improvement could be on you as a leader… a lack of coaching provided or training offered, not knowing or respecting how they learn best, being too busy to walk them through projects, not being available, not providing a safe space to ask questions or receive difficult to hear feedback. Be sure to explore this avenue first, as YOU are the leader and most responsible.
Years ago, my business model was different. I wanted to be of impact and enhance the lives of people everywhere. After years of doing it alone, I hired a staff that became an awesome team. I focused on adults in the community while my staff of twelve (4 adults and 8 college interns) serviced two college campuses. I personally trained and supervised everyone and it was great and hard all at the same time! Long story short, there was an intern that was motivated, high-energy, passionate, and had all the potential in the world. However, I never knew which version of him I was going to get! While doing the job of impacting young lives, he was great. However, as soon as the gavel banged (so to speak) and the session closed he switched and I could hear him spouting foul language and making rude comments. We had conversations on remaining consistent and him needing to choose which version of himself he wanted to be, because I could only continue to employ one of them. I allowed this to go on for a while due to his charm and potential.
One evening, when I was present to observe a Life-Enrichment Session on the campus, I noticed he was conducting it while under the influence. Although I could not prove it… I could feel my other employees the attendees looking at me and being aware and uncomfortable. We concluded the session, I met with him the following day, and we had an honest conversation about the incident. Although he denied being under the influence… MY BIGGEST MISTAKE WAS NOT LETTING HIM GO! As a leader, your big-heart or being uncomfortable can get the best of you… but that is not the best for them or the team. I remember seeing my team after the meeting and feeling small. Do you know the standard and expectation it would have set if I would have done the process I’m about to share with you? Needless to say, I’ve never made that mistake again as I’ve come to put the desired culture first and understand that people who have done wrong are expecting to have that tough conversation with the leader.
Have you ever worked on a team that had a High-Performer? Their numbers, their output, or however your organization measures success, are out of this world! High-Performers are great and every organization and team wants them and needs them. However, is your high-performer helpful or harmful?
Whether it’s sports or a traditional work environment, Helpful High-Performers succeed and also raise the level of performance of those around them. The Helpful Type doesn’t mind connecting, coaching, and celebrating the success of others. The individual wins, the team wins, and the organization wins!
The Harming High-Performer is quite different. Outside of impressive numbers and output, they operate like a shark! Although they are good at what they do and outside of the workplace may be an enjoyable person… they bully, lie, and/or steal clients, customers to single-handedly profit and climb the ladder of success. They may be in a position of leadership within your company and are verbally abusive and micro-managing to your staff. This may be your most productive salesperson; their numbers are good, but if you look at WHY, it’s mixed with their ability and effort… but also a lot of abusive and subversive tactics.
The saddest part is… typically, the organization knows it’s going on… but because the numbers are so good or the organization fears not being able to hire a qualified replacement… nothing changes!
The truth is, there are 7.5 billion people in the world. Although it will be annoying to find someone else, it will disrupt the project, you’d have to train someone new, and through the whole process… it’s possible, worth it, and needs to happen! Remember, your people are watching and will know what’s really important to you and the organization based on your action or inaction. The saddest thing to see is “Inspired & Motivated” Employees become bitter and leave an organization or worse… get bitter and stay! So, what’s the process of Letting Go of “The Potential” and “The High-Performer”?
- Provide Feedback – Do this regularly and honestly. I often speak and provide training on how to conduct effective 1-on-1 Meetings. It’s not all about numbers and quotas. Know what they’d like to get out of the 1-on-1, mesh your goals, their goals, and the goals of the organization; allowing them to succeed, share which habits are helping them and which are hurting them, establish a plan, and ask what was their biggest take-away from the 1-on-1.
- Seek Understanding – Why are they engaging in what you consider to be problematic behaviors? They may not see it as problematic, they may have done this same behavior in every job they’ve had, are doing it because they haven’t been told not to, mimicking the culture of the organization that you don’t see, etc. Whether they shine a light on something or hang themselves with their own words… seek to understand as you will learn more about them, your team, and your leadership!
- Set Expectations – This is monumentally important. Have you set an expectation that an abuse of power, abusive language, stealing clients/customers, lying, micro-managing, etc. is against the expectation of your leadership, the team, and the desired culture? Rather… connecting, coaching, positivity, taking risks, closing deals, and meeting deadlines are? Your people don’t know what you don’t say!
- Rules – What are they? There doesn’t need to be many, but there needs to at least be a few. Being clear with your rules will make your leadership easier; creating win-wins for your organization. A win “The Potential” or “High-Performer” can take their skills to a place that will allow them to behave the way they prefer and a win that your team now has space for someone willing to do things your company’s way!
- Follow-Through – When feedback is ignored, expectations and rules are not respected, it’s time to follow-through and let these individuals go. This will be tough as either like this person, their ability is impressive, you’ve invested so much time and money into them, or they bring in so much revenue. Remember, sports teams do this all the time… with the mindset of creating a productive and cohesive team positioned to win championships. Teams with great individual players may win games, but not always championships. You want great people with a great ability that are a fit for your vision and your system!
The actual Follow-Through Conversation may sound something like this, “Hi _______________, thank you for coming in for the meeting today. It’s been good having you here at ___________. However, given the ongoing conversations we’ve had over the past few _____(weeks/months/years)____ regarding ____(examples)_____. We/I’ve decided to let you go. I believe this can be a win for you as your positives are ______(list one or two)_______. However, we’re looking for someone more aligned with our vision, expectations, and rules. Thank you for your time with us and I truly do wish you well”.
Feel free to use this statement or make it your own. Be sure to thank them for their service, effort, and time with you. Mention the conversations had… as they can’t be denied (especially when you’ve been having the 1-on-1’s), be clear you are letting them go, share they may be a better fit elsewhere, and what you are looking for in an employee and why. Remember, this conversation will not be a shock to them when you’ve consistently shared the vision, expectations, and rules, had your 1-on-1’s, and had the casual and tough conversations along the way.
Once you’ve followed-through and let go… it’s imperative to inform your team and share the WHY! This is not a time to bash and degrade; rather a time to reexplain organizational vision, expectations, and rules… and a plan to unify until a suitable replacement can arrive. This is a time of possibility and opportunity as employees may have to share work, get promoted, learn something new, and shift… but all done in a new and positive environment. Be mindful that some may like the change, some may not… but, the new expectation and direction has been set!
“The Helpful Type doesn’t mind connecting, coaching, and celebrating the success of others. The individual wins, the team wins, and the organization wins!”
– Andre Young
Written by: Andre Young
Enhance Leadership and Work/Life Harmony in your Organization, your Leaders, Employees, and Teams with Andre Young’s Speaking Engagements, Evolve & Lead Training Programs (on-site, online, or virtual), and1-on-1 Growth Sessions! www.youevolvingnow.com