November 5, 2013 Leaders – Should You be Fired?
I attended a leadership conference a few years ago, where a well renowned speaker gave an impressive presentation. He challenged the audience with the question – How many of you have someone on your team that you know should be fired; if you do stand up. Slowly people began to stand; leaders at all levels from the C-suite down. His next statement was: “tomorrow when you return to your office – fire that person.” As I sat there observing this interaction, my first thought was if there is a remote chance that this would happen, HR was going to be very busy; especially given that everyone in the room had a boss who was standing. My second thought was – I hope he poses a different challenge: “please stand if you think you should be fired.” I am confident that only a handful of people would have stood. The speaker went on to give as I mentioned a very impressive, insightful and inspirational message. (Regretfully I don’t have his name to share)
In my career there have been two instances where I needed to remove two employees from my team. In the first instance I struggled with making the decision and sought the guidance of my division president and my boss. I presented each of them separately with my struggle, and had in depth conversation on what was stopping me from taking action. They both gave me the same guidance – “if you continue without making the tough call, it will cease being about the employee but about your ability to lead and make the best decision.” It took at least another week, before I finally had the conversation with the employee and released her. Her inability to perform in the role was because she was in the wrong role and I did not have a spot where I could optimize her strengths and capabilities. In the second instance the employee was excellent at her job but did not fit in the environment where we placed her. After several instances of non-conformance, I knew I needed to do something. Again I struggled with my decision and reached out to my boss. No surprise, his guidance was similar to the guidance I had received from my two previous leaders – “you are at a cross-road, where this is not about the employee but you trusting and acting on your decision and having the tough conversation.” In this case I collaborated with one of my colleagues, who had an opening within his operations that would benefit from her technical capabilities and maximize her strengths.
How often do we determine when someone else’s employee should be fired, with little to no regard as to how we are managing our own teams? The lesson I learned from each of the leaders has stayed with me. As leaders, we have the responsibility to understand the talent on our team and create synergizes to maximize productivity. Talent management is not just recruiting, developing and retaining talent. It also is the critical component of performance management which includes: setting clear goals and expectations, providing truthful feedback, having the difficult discussions and when necessary making the tough call. Should poor performance management be a terminable offense?
One of the five facets of the Productivity Powered by P.E.O.P.L.E. ®framework is Optimizing your resources. As a leader are you optimizing your workforce, providing truthful feedback and making the tough calls? If you ask yourself the question – “Should I be fired?” and answer yes or maybe, now is the time to pause, assess your leadership effectiveness, your teams strengths and weaknesses and put a plan in the place to best optimize your greatest asset- your people. If you find this task daunting, call me for a free consultation.
To conclude: both of the young ladies I mentioned trusted me enough to use me as a professional reference. I can without hesitation give the reference based on their capabilities and strengths.