Fire People Like a Leader

Written By Randy Hall  |  Leadership 


The hardest thing most managers ever have to do is fire an employee.  In almost every instance, we are telling a decent person that they no longer have a job.  Sure there are the occasions where someone deserves to lose a job because they have done something ethically wrong, but many times it is simply a poor fit with the role or the culture and we have to terminate a good person doing a bad job.  The bottom line is that to grow a team or a business we need great talent and sometimes that means changing the talent we already have.  Here are some things to consider as you face the prospect of making changes on your team.

Everyone has the potential to be successful and a coach’s job is to help people reach that potential.  It’s easy for us to think that the solution is to get rid of the people who aren’t superstars and hire a bunch of people who are.  But the likelihood of a manager who coached a bad team replacing them and then all of a sudden having a good team is pretty slim.  The coach matters and it’s our job as managers to help people grow, develop and perform.  If we aren’t doing that well for this team, we won’t do it well for the next one either.  Pretty soon we will be facing the same situation with our new team.  If you need to make a change, make it, but understand that if you don’t improve your ability to coach, you will be making far more changes than a great coach would.

It’s not fair to keep a poor performer.

If you have done a good job as a coach and you have people who are choosing not to work toward their own potential, then it’s time to help them find a place where they can be more successful.  Sometimes that place is with another organization.  If you allow them to stay on your team and be mediocre, you are sending a strong message to the rest of the team that being mediocre is acceptable.  Your stars will soon realize that they are carrying the entire load and may choose to go find a team that is worthy of them somewhere else.   People who aren’t successful deserve to find a place where they can be, and people who are, deserve to be surrounded with others who are working hard to get there as well.

People you fire will thank you if you were honest and worked hard to help them succeed first.

If you have done your job as a manager, given candid feedback from day one, coached well and frequently, genuinely approached the employee in an effort to help them be great and it doesn’t work, then most people understand and respect that.  They know when they are not bringing their best efforts and they also know when you have dedicated your time and effort to helping them become better.  Even though they are still frustrated with losing a job, it may be the catalyst that helps them approach their next one differently and find the success they are capable of.  If we leave them confused and unclear about why they were fired though, we don’t give them a chance to understand the changes they need to make and how to be successful in their next role.  Great coaches occasionally even get thanked by the people who they have fired, for helping them ultimately find what they love and where they fit.

Firing people is hard.  But it’s the right thing to do for the team and for the people who need to go find a place where they can succeed.  If you make talent changes the right way it creates a culture of success while giving the people who are no longer with you a fresh start.  If you are going to be a leader, letting people go is part of that.  How you do it, though, sends a strong message about the kind of leader you have become.

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