At one time or another, every one of us will know the burn of working with someone who should be fired. These are co-workers who are lazy or unmotivated. They erode the culture through gossip or dishonesty.
They complain instead of finding solutions. They refuse to learn and don’t take direction well. They have anger issues. They aren’t team players. They are always part of problems and not solutions.
They are described in one of BusinessWeek’s most tweeted articles of all time: Three Types of People to Fire Immediately.
Some of these people are likable at times, and have friends at work, but they are poison to a company’s culture and always to bring down morale and results.
When a new executive or manager arrives, the people problem needs to be fixed as soon as possible.
Recently, I received an email from a manager who had been promoted into a new leadership role within her organization. After receiving this promotion, she made the difficult decision to fire several leaders, as she felt that these individuals were a result of “bad hiring decisions” (ultimately bringing her new team down.)
She wisely assessed the situation and found the courage to take action. That is what good leaders do.
I suggested that she take the following six actions in the next few months to rebuild her team and ensure positive momentum after letting these managers go.
1. Go back to leadership 101: Simple works – begin by focusing on relationships and building trust. Ensure that everyone on the team understands the mission of the organization, the purpose and objectives and why they are important. What problems is the team and organization solving for customers? Why does it matter in the world?
2. Affirm and spend time with the top performers on your team: There is no shortcut to spending time with your team, listening to them and learning what they care about. As a leader, you’re in a position to ensure a win/win outcome – that they achieve their aspirations as well as fulfill the company’s mission.
Give clear and specific feedback on what you value in these top performers. Is it their collaborative approach to problems? Their willingness to help and go above and beyond their job description?
Also, ask how you can better support them. The team members who add the most value often don’t have the biggest titles. These are the “invisible” players who influence the culture and outcomes. You’ve just let go of bad performers, so now is the time to determine if others need more visible leadership with a promotion.
3. Communicate often: Communicate beyond your usual comfort zone. Establish and continue to reaffirm the mission and vision of the organization. And be clear on what your expectations are. Use a variety of communications that involve some face time – include Skype or Hangout if necessary.
4. Ask a lot of questions – always: Ask your employees for their ideas on what has worked and what hasn’t in the past. What are the most persistent problems and what is their opinion on how to solve them? Here are 20 questions for ideas.
What do they need from you to fulfill their potential and objectives, and to grow as leaders? Show that you are a learner, too.
“The best innovators are learners, not knowers. The same can be said about innovative cultures; they are learning cultures. The leaders who have built these cultures, either through intuition or experience, know that in order to discover, they must eagerly seek out things they don’t understand and jump right into the deep end of the pool. They must fail fearlessly and quickly and then learn and share their lessons with the team. “ G. Michael Maddock and Raphael Louis Vitón
5. Establish regular check ins: Make it clear that you welcome questions, opinions and alternative points of view. Spend time listening to them.
6. Have some fun, soon and often: Plan team-building activities or a simple happy hour where you can get to know your employees in a casual setting. Spend time with them outside of work. Encourage your team to take initiative and make their work fun – to jumpstart see 8 Easy Ways to Have Fun at Work
Remember, most, if not all of your colleagues, will be relieved by the decision to fire their co-workers who were underperforming. They’re smart and expect this as good leadership. They may even ask you why it took you so long!
Don’t second guess your firing decisions. Research shows your early impressions are generally accurate. It is hard to fire people and it should be (but if it’s too easy, you may need to check yourself!)
It takes courage and clarity to let people go. It can and should be done with grace.
I’ve found that for those who are fired, it can be a turning point in their lives – the wake up call they need to do a self-assessment on their purpose, their strengths and weaknesses.
It spurs them to gain clarity on their goals, and take responsibility for their attitude, self-limiting beliefs, and actions. As painful as firing decisions are, these experiences can teach and transform.
Even if you aren’t a senior executive, you can “lead up” and recommend these action steps whenever people are let go from your organization.
What positive, culture-building steps have you taken after firing someone?
I believe in the power of incremental change, one idea, action, and day at a time. That’s why I created the Pocket Mentor mobile app.
The Pocket Mentor app is perfect for motivated leaders who want to increase their impact, influence, and rewards. The app provides you with daily advice, tools, and action plans (right at your fingertips!) to win at work, succeed in life and enjoy it.