Help Someone: Fire Them! July 29, 2009Posted by Chuck Musciano in Leadership.
Tags: Leadership, Management Skills, Relationships
In my last post, I wrote about helping successful people succeed even more by finding them opportunities outside of your organization.We can’t always accommodate every successful person; good leaders help these high-achievers by letting them go to excel somewhere else. It’s hard, but it’s necessary.
But what of those who are not succeeding in your team? Ironically, you use the same solution: you let them go to excel somewhere else. It may be even harder, but it’s certainly just as necessary.
Typically, a person is failing in your organization because they cannot handle their job. We’ve all been in this position, recognizing that an employee simply is not going to be successful for a variety of reasons. In these cases, after exhausting every way to make them successful in their current spot, we must find ways to make them successful somewhere else.
For people who truly want to succeed, this can ultimately be a rewarding experience. I once had a person who worked for me as a Unix administrator. Believe it or not, this was his dream job, but for everyone else it was a nightmare. He was simply not cut out for the world of Unix systems administration. As his performance declined, I finally had to sit this person down and give them the bad news: he was being removed from the Unix admin team.
Tears literally rolled down his cheeks as he saw his dream job disappear. But we did not fire this person. Recognizing the desire but acknowledging the skills mismatch, we moved him to the email management team. And he thrived! He became the greatest email admin ever, and grew to love that job. Later, he shared with me that being cut from the Unix group as the best thing that ever happened to him. The pain of breaking his heart led to the joy of unforeseen success.
But what if you don’t have a great alternative position for someone who cannot handle their job? You still must let them go, but it is up to them to find their new opportunity. Even when we have to fire someone, it is still in their best interest. Someone who is not succeeding in their current position is not happy. That negative influence makes everyone unhappy. By moving them out so they can find a place to be happy, everyone ultimately wins.
I’ve had the unfortunate opportunity to fire a number of people. In almost every case, when they ask why, I explain how they will be incapable of succeeding in their current position. I try to show them that moving to a new opportunity really is for the best, but that’s hard to see right away. But when that person moves on to some place new, where they can succeed and become happy, they will look back on being fired as a good thing. Getting let go is always awful, but it can be the cathartic moment that leads to unimagined success.
Most people hate the thought of firing someone and will avoid doing it at almost any cost. That’s a bad decision and the mark of a weak leader. If you can honestly say that you have exhausted every tool at your disposal to help someone succeed, you have no choice but to let them go. Retaining poor performers to avoid an unpleasant confrontation hurts them, hurts your team, and ultimately hurts you. Good leaders fire unsuccessful people.
And therein lies the importance of firing someone. You are not punishing them for poor performance; you are releasing them to deliver a better performance somewhere else. In these cases, the only true failure is the leader who does not have the wherewithal to fire someone so that they can succeed somewhere else.
[tweetmeme source=”EffectiveCIO” alias=”http://bit.ly/cio084″ only_single=false]