The Right Way to Fire Employees

“I’ve seen many a CEO take a bullet themselves because they did not fire the unmotivated and incompetent thinking they could reform, retrain, and remotivate people who either don’t know or don’t care, or both. This is a great article worth the read.” – Sharon Jenks

 

In my years of experience in the C-suite, I’ve met and worked with every kind of personality out there, from big and brash know-it-all executives to quietly confident managers who fly below the radar — and always get the job done.

But I’ve never known anyone who likes to use the “f” word.

Not that “f” word. The one I’m referring to here is “fired,” as in, “You are.”

Even Donald Trump, who has added to his fame and fortune by making “You’re fired!” his catch phrase (something I have first-hand experience with from my time on “Celebrity Apprentice”) doesn’t always relish the idea of letting someone go.

One of the most authentic, radically transparent people I know, Trump didn’t get to where he is today by playing small, avoiding risk, and hoping things will get better. And as a change agent whose job it is to overhaul your company in a way that is massive and measurable, nor should you.

No matter what business you’re in, the key to your success will always be the quality of the people on your team. From your front-line foot soldiers to the back-room strategists, in order for your company to succeed in the cutthroat world of business, you have to know that every one of them is ready, willing, and able to go the distance with you.

If not, it’s time to fire the dead weight and hire new blood. It’s easy to say and hard to put into practice, but it’s crucial to your success.

How crucial?

In my bestselling book, “Running the Gauntlet,” I talk a great deal about the importance of changing a mood of a company as a necessary first step towards changing its culture.
And integral to changing the mood is making sure you’ve got the right people in place.

Avoid firing people, and you might as well try to teach a pig to kiss

Anytime I’m invited to speak to an audience of C-suite execs about turning around a company, effecting massive change, and reaping the financial rewards that come as a result, I always get a chuckle when I liken holding onto employees that no longer fit in with the vision you have for your company to teaching pigs to kiss. As I point out, you can do it, but it’s a messy job.

And it really pisses off the pig.

It’s far easier (and a lot cleaner) to get rid of those employees who aren’t working and trade up for talent that will. This involves identifying those who can’t (or won’t) change as well as those who don’t believe that they need to change in order to be successful, and then firing them.

You hear talk all the time about how hiring the right people is an art, and there’s a lot of wisdom to that statement. But the flip side to that coin is the art of firing those who can’t handle the course to success you’ve charted.

If you’re not there already, chances are good that the time is coming when you’ll need to make some tough decisions about who to keep on and who to let go. Like others in your position, you might find yourself hemming and hawing over your decision, finding every excuse in the book to avoid actually taking action.

These excuses run the gamut, with executives citing everything from the high cost of searching for new talent or the effect of unemployment on insurance costs, to the fact that deep down, they are holding out hope that with a little bit of help or retraining, under-performers will somehow change to become star employees. And then there’s the fear of making a mistake in firing someone and the fear of how letting people go will make the company look to those on the outside.

Yes, yes, yes. Blah, blah, blah.

The truth of the matter is, if someone’s not a right fit, they need to go. Yesterday. When I’ve had to make personnel changes, once the dust has settled I have never felt I made a mistake in firing someone. In fact, more often than not, I often think I should have done it sooner.

It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it: Three steps to firing with confidence

If the writing’s on the wall for some of the employees at your company, now’s the time to take immediate and decisive action to trim the fat and make room for new talent.

Yes, it’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it. If that someone is you, use my three-step process for making the job as painless — and effective — a proposition as you can for all involved:

Be clear on your conditions of satisfaction first
No matter what your battle plan for success is, or who it involves, a necessary first step is that you get very clear on your conditions for satisfaction, and then share these with your team.

These are so important to your company’s success that I spend a considerable amount of time on the subject in both “Running the Gauntlet” and my earlier book, “The Mirror Test.” Without clearly defined conditions of satisfaction, you miss out on a few key ingredients to success:

  • You won’t be able to sell your endgame to your people.
  • You won’t have a prayer of tackling head-on those feelings that often blind your people to the fact that change is needed — or to the reality that it’s time for some of them to move on.
  • You won’t have any way of pinpointing what your desired end result looks like or knowing whether or not something is working to keep you on track.

When you align your teams around the company’s conditions of satisfaction, you build a foundation for success. Those that get your vision will serve as a cornerstone for that success; those that don’t, won’t. Identifying and sharing your conditions of satisfaction brings into focus who falls into these categories, making it easier for you to decide who to keep and who to let go.

Gather feedback from the rank and file
One of the easiest ways I’ve found to identify who’s pulling their weight and who’s dead weight in a company is by asking your best employees. As with everything else, there’s an art to this (you don’t want your employees to feel like tattletales). The best approach is to ask them honestly and to let them know that what they share with you is in confidence.

I’ve found that asking trusted employees for this kind of information not only makes the process that much more fool-proof (how often have you had someone come up to you after you’ve fired one of their colleagues to confirm that you made the right choice?) but also empowers your best people who are honored to have earned your trust.

And I don’t know about you, but those are exactly the kind of people I want to go into battle with, confident that they’ve got my back, just as I’ve got theirs.

Stop thinking about “why not,” and act!
My friend Miles Young, Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide’s CEO, once told me that whenever he sees anything that’s not working in business, the first thing he does is to take a look at the people around the problem. “Things don’t break by themselves,” Young said, “they get broken as a result of negligence or mistakes.”

Once you’ve laid out your conditions for satisfaction, you know where those conditions aren’t being met, and you have identified the people around the problem, as Young puts it, it’s time to take action. No more beating around the bush, thinking of all the reasons why not to let someone go. A company can only move as fast as its lowest common denominator, which means if you’re going to succeed, you’ve got to let go of those who aren’t cutting it.

If firing people isn’t your thing, get someone to do it for you. However you go about it, get it done. Nothing negatively affects a company’s morale like employees who aren’t a good fit, and chances are those who need to be fired already know that they’re the odd man out living on borrowed time as it is. Giving them the push out the door into something bigger and better won’t just improve the performance of those who stay to build the company; it could be exactly what the person you’ve let go needs in order to grow.

Give your company a fighting chance to succeed

There’s an old saying that goes, “An army marches on its stomach.” These days, while you might not literally be leading troops into battle, you are waging war on a battleground of sorts: the marketplace.

This means that your army feeds on trust and empowerment. And if it’s going to march at all, it’s got to march in unison.

Fill your rank and file with those who share your vision and are ready and willing to follow you into battle, and fire the others. In doing so, you’ll give your company the fighting chance it needs to succeed on today’s battlefield.

Jeffrey Hayzlett is a global business celebrity, TV commentator, bestselling author, and sometimes cowboy.

 

What It Takes to Be a Boss Every Employee Loves

takes-boss-everyone-loves, leadership, relationships, behavior

Being a successful leader means being good at what you do and possessing integrity. But more than anything, it’s about your ability to build healthy relationships with others — particularly those who work for you.

As an entrepreneur, you’re viewed differently than you were when you were a manager or colleague in a traditional job. You stand to gain the most from the company’s success, and it is easier for your employees to think you’re more interested in the business than them and their lives. Your success is paramount, but it shouldn’t be achieved at the expense of healthy relationships with those you depend on.

1. Don’t treat people as transactions.
Years ago in my first real job out of college, I was delighted to have my very own assistant. She was a very capable and competent woman who I really liked. One day while a client was visiting the office, I made the naïve mistake of introducing my assistant by saying, “This is Teri. She works for me.” Teri’s response would have served me better in private, but her point was valid none-the-less: “I work with you, Mark, not for you.”

I meant no ill respect with my choice of words, but it suggested to Teri that she was a means to an end, that I was “above” her. And while technically she did report to me, the difference between working for and with someone is critical. The former can make a person feel conquered, while the latter signals collaboration.

Think through how you title and refer to your employees. Focus on reciprocity: look for ways you can help them achieve their work-life goals while they help you achieve yours. And guard against letting tasks trump a true regard and appreciation for the relationship you have with those who have voluntarily chosen to work with you.

2. Invest in those you value.
The ultimate test of value in a relationship is how much time, interest and support you are willing to invest. Rather than ask, “What have you done for me lately?” turn the tables and ask yourself what you’ve done lately for those you truly value.

Here’s one way to invest for great dividends: identify the potential in an employee that he or she doesn’t recognize in him- or herself. Often people are blind to their own abilities or potential, and good leaders not only recognize these latent strengths, they help develop them.

Several years ago, my office manager was spending more time on our website and technology platforms. A colleague was presenting a multi-day event in Las Vegas that I knew would give my team member information and skills to help her in these areas. Going to Las Vegas for the event was an added perk, so I gladly paid for the seminar and trip. She came back better equipped for her work, knowing I was willing to invest in her success.

3. Be involved, but know your limits.

You can work in the same office space with people every day and still be absent because you are preoccupied with your own worries. An open door policy means nothing if you don’t stop what you’re doing long enough to give your attention to those who walk through it.

How can you do this? Make it a point to “check in” with every employee each day. That means a simple but sincere question: “How are things going?” Listen and if necessary, probe for information you can use to support your employees. Identify frustrations they are facing, opportunities they’ve recognized and gauge their emotional energy and commitment to their work.

You’ll know you’re micromanaging when you’re spending more time telling someone how to do something than you are in clarifying what needs to be done. A thorough explanation with a chance to ask questions is vastly different than a droning presentation about how you’d do it. Give people the freedom to achieve the best results in their own way.

4. Show your gratitude.
I’ve heard a lot of complaints from employees who feel underappreciated by their manager, but I’ve never heard anyone complain they were recognized, rewarded or appreciated too much. I’m puzzled at why so many entrepreneurs and leaders are reticent to voice appreciation. Don’t be afraid of over-doing it. You connect with people more deeply when you recognize the best in them and let them know.

Here’s a powerful way to show appreciation: When you get feedback from a customer about someone on your team who has done a great job, get their permission to record it. Then play the recording at the next team meeting. There is even more power in a customer’s expression of a job well done than simply acknowledging it yourself.

Growing your business successfully means doing all that you can to make your team want to work their hardest for your cause. That means connecting with employees in a meaningful way.

By Mark Sanborn  an author, speaker and president of Sanborn & Associates Inc., a leadership development firm based in Lonetree, Colo.

What do you do to deepen your connections with employees?

5 Reasons Your Employees Probably Hate You

employees, boss, leadership, relationship, retention

 

Many years ago I worked for a company whose CEO was a stickler for how many hours employees worked. He made a point to note who came early and who stayed late. He considered anyone who didn’t a slacker.

As far as I know, nobody ever told him how shortsighted his approach was. Instead of rewarding results, he rewarded butt-in-chair time. Instead of focusing on output, he focused on input. Most hated the practice, but nobody told him.

How many of your behaviors drive your employees silently crazy that you don’t know about? Here are five leadership missteps to look out for:

1. You reward the wrong things. 
What gets rewarded gets done. It is such a familiar axiom of management that it is nearly cliché. It is, however, completely true. Where you focus your attention focuses your employees’ attention. What you notice, note and reward will get done more frequently.

Identify and focus on the results that matter. And don’t be like the executive above who confused activity with accomplishment.

2. You don’t listen. 
Even if your employees told you about a qualm of theirs, you might not really hear them. It is too easy to be distracted and pre-occupied.

Becoming a better listener is actually quite easy. When an employee is in your workspace to talk, turn off your email alerts, close your door and let your monitor go into sleep mode. Give your undivided attention to the person in front of you. They will feel you value them, and you’ll likely increase the quality and speed of the interaction.

3. You don’t notice what your employees are doing.
Brittney was a financial manager at a client firm. She was bubbly and outgoing. She also had the ability to draw attention to her “contributions,” though many weren’t that significant. Employees hated her self-aggrandizement. But they also disliked that management noted Brittney’s efforts because they were easily observed. Leaders didn’t pay attention to the good and often better work others were doing.

Great work is often done backstage, out of the spotlight. The glitter of self-promotion doesn’t blind great entrepreneurs. They seek out those people doing good work and make it a point to notice. Pay attention to people who do good work and let them know. And don’t get suckered by people who are better at promoting themselves than producing results.

4. Your attitude sucks. 

Bill is an entrepreneur who constantly complains about how terrible his employees are at delivering customer service. He berates and belittles even their best efforts. And yet he’s puzzled why those same employees treat customers poorly. The irony escapes him.

Attitudes are contagious. Mirror neurons pick up on and are affected by the moods of those around us. Leaders are especially powerful in influencing the mood of those on their team.

Don’t expect others to be more upbeat than you or treat customers better than you treat them. There are a few entrepreneurs who might have dodged this bullet, but not enough to be statistically significant. Your attitude is contagious, so pay attention to how you act at work each day.

5. You can’t keep your mouth shut. 
A young entrepreneur we will call Bob loved to share insider information about others. At one after-work beer session, he shared something HR told him confidentially about a coworker who was not at the gathering. It was less than flattering and was instantly off-putting to those in the group. The employee, a valued and productive member of the team, learned of the betrayal of confidence and was outraged. She left the company soon after.

Don’t think that trust can be effectively compartmentalized. If you’re known to be untrustworthy in your personal life, few will trust you in your professional dealings. If people don’t trust you, they will follow, but out of compliance instead of commitment.

No one is a mind-reader. If you want to find out why your team is dissatisfied to be a better leader, work on building trust and being equally open to both good and bad news. Ask them what they really think. And most importantly: listen.                 -Mark Sanborn

Finding Leaders Starts by Listening

 

 

 

 

This morning I commented on an article in a Group I’m in on LinkedIn. It was an article about the gender gap and why men are still paid more than their female counterparts. My comment on that article is that I believe a change will come, where women will become more recognized for their leadership style and therefore this will eventually cause the gap to narrow. Immediately after I made that comment I saw an article written by Lou Adler and wanted to share it with you…it supports my point!

leadership, vision, execution, CEO, leadership

If I had a bigger napkin I would have written this:

The Less Simple Formula for Assessing Leadership = Identify the Problem, Find a Solution, Develop a Workable Plan, Inspire Others, Deliver the Results

The story started many years ago, but was retold last week while having breakfast with a former client. The napkin was handy. When a client, he was the CEO of a mid-sized company, and my search firm had placed most of his senior management team. Now he’s on the board of a dozen or so different charitable organizations, university groups, and privately held companies. In his new role he’s still confronting the same hiring challenges as before: finding enough leaders. My company today is no longer a search firm. We now help companies set up programs to find and hire leaders of all types. Sometimes these leaders are engineers, accountants or sales reps. Sometimes they’re business executives or someone working on the shop floor. Regardless of the role, it’s not hard to identify leaders when you know what you’re looking for. This is where napkins come in handy, at least as a starting point.

Before I started working with this CEO, I had an assignment with a major LA-based entertainment company looking for a corporate director of accounting. The ideal candidate needed a CPA from a top accounting firm, and at least 5-10 additional years of experience working at the corporate office of a publicly-traded company. One of my candidates for the role was a young woman who was a senior manager with one of the major accounting firms. While her clients were publicly-traded companies, she didn’t have any hands-on industry experience. More challenging, she only had seven years of total experience, not the 10-15 listed on the job description. There was no question she was an exceptional person, and the VP Controller was more than willing to meet her. After the interview we both agreed she was a very strong person, but too light for the position. She never got this message.

Before I could break the bad news she wasn’t going to be considered for the job, she said something like, “I don’t want this job the way it’s currently structured. There is no way anyone could accomplish the overhaul of the department as defined given the resources and time frame currently specified. If you want me to consider this job there are five things that must happen.” She then spent another 10 minutes describing what she needed in terms of resources, staff and system support including a rough time-phased implementation plan. It was a remarkable plan. So remarkable, I never had a chance to tell her she was not getting the job. Instead, I called the VP Controller, and told him he had to hear directly what this woman proposed, even if he didn’t hire her. He enthusiastically invited her back and with a few other directors in the room asked her to describe her plan for rebuilding the accounting department. After about three hours he made her the offer. She accepted. Eighteen months later she was promoted into a bigger job after successfully completing the initial project.

What this woman did was simply amazing. As a result, I started rethinking how the best people I had placed up to that point answered questions. The best engineers could always visualize the technical problem, figure out a way to solve it and put a plan together. One plant manager candidate put a plan together on a flip chart on how to set up a global manufacturing and distribution center. The best sales reps could develop approaches to handle the most difficult clients. YMCA camp counselors could develop daily activities to ensure even their quietest kids would have a great experience every day. And it goes on and on. The best people in any job, regardless of their age or level, can visualize the problem they’re facing and figure out a way to solve it.

But this is just the first step in leadership ….

But this is just the first step in leadership – having a vision and being able to articulate it. It’s not enough, though. Not only do you need a detailed plan once the problem is solved, but you also must implement the solution successfully. This requires obtaining the resources, developing and motivating the team, and committing to achieving the objective despite the numerous challenges and obstacles that will always crop up.

The ability to articulate a vision combined with a track record of achieving comparable results was how the two-question Performance-based Interview described in The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired was developed. One question involves asking candidates to describe how they’d go about figuring out how to accomplish a major objective or realistic job-related problem. The other question asks them to describe something they’ve done that’s most comparable. (Here’s a link to a summary of the Anchor and Visualize two-question process.) After asking these two questions a few times for your biggest job-related challenges, you can be confident about hiring someone who has the ability to both visualize a solution when combined with a track record of having accomplished something comparable. One without the other will be a problem.

Be careful. Too often we’re seduced by just the vision and the lofty ideas. Others become overly focused on technical brilliance, or a track record of years of experience. None of this is good enough. Competency without results is just mediocrity. Results without vision is just more of the same. Vision without the ability to deliver results is just a bunch of empty promises. With leadership, everything changes. It starts by listening.

The Power Of Thank You

Thank You, Appreciation, Employee Appreciation, Communication. Performance PraiseMost managers and supervisors know that the single greatest disappointment employees suffer in the workplace is the feeling that their hard work and effort goes unnoticed.  What most managers and supervisors don’t know is that the second greatest disappointment employees have is insincere or inappropriately applied recognition!  Does it seem to you that sometimes you can’t win?!  The fact is you can all win, and here is how you do it.

 First, you need to train yourself to constantly be on the look out for someone doing something right.  As managers, we typically spend way too much time dealing with hot spots or trouble issues.  Believe it or not, you have to develop the habit of seeking the good work that’s being done all around you.

 Second, take time to visit with your staff when there is not a crisis or a problem to deal with.  Sometimes a quick five minute meeting just to say Hi and let everyone know that they are OK is worth its weight in gold.  If the only time you get together is when something is wrong, how excited are your people when you call a meeting or when they interact with you?  The development of non-crisis interaction time is critical to team development and positive employee moral.

Third, learn the Power Thank You.  For a simple “thank you” to become a powerful, and motivational tool for managers and supervisor’s, simply apply these four basic rules:

  •  Be timely. After a few weeks the accomplishment is forgotten.
  • Be specific to something the employee accomplished, a task or goal completed.
  • Acknowledge the effort it took to complete the goal.
  • Address personally the benefits you and the company received as a direct result of this effort.

As a Certified Professional Behavioral Analyst and Executive Coach, “One of the first things I look for in a President or CEO is how well they know, and then acknowledge, their employees efforts and tasks. A Chief Executive who can not only recognize an employee by name but also by task and accomplishment, well…, that’s a keeper.”

Here is a tip for those of us trying to build this idea into a positive habit … sometimes we’re busy and we forget about what’s really important.  To remind us to do the right thing, I ask my executives to start their day with three pennies in their right pocket. Every time they offer someone a power thank you, they move a penny to their left.  By the end of the day, all three pennies need to be in that left pocket.

 We spend more daylight hours at our workplace than with our families and friends so it is reasonable to assume that we should do all we can to make our work environment as pleasant as possible.  The Power Thank You is one way to support this philosophy.

Sharon Jenks, CPBA, is President of The Jenks Group, Inc. a CA based consulting firm that specializes in strategic planning and executive team development.  Sharon can be reached at sjenks@thejenksgroup.com

http://www.thejenksgroup.com