There is someone on your team not pulling their weight.
For every business I’ve talked to over 15 people, this is the case.
This is not a temporary status. This is a gradual declining situation. You convince yourself you’re just on the edge of taking action, but the pain of the act of letting this person go still outweighs the lack of contribution. The litmus test is if this person told you tomorrow they are leaving, relief would be your first feeling. A burdensome weight suddenly lifted off of your shoulders, the weight yourself and others carried for this person for a while now.
Letting someone go is the hardest single task I’ve ever done in my career. The fear awaiting the conversation and concern for someone’s well being after the fact are much to bear. 99% of the 30 people I’ve let go were really good people, unfortunately they weren’t a fit for the role or the culture of the company. 30 may sound like a lot to you, especially considering it is out of 100 or so people that were hired under my watch at Lifeblue.
I have no shortage of lessons learned in every single one of those situations. My efforts and those in my charge were not free of mistakes. However, I can confidently say I’ve never regretted a single instance, save one…a story for another day. These decisions were critical in order to protect the culture and the value we promised to provide to our clients.
The purpose of today’s notes is to share with you a few lessons I learned over the years that will hopefully help you deal with your own weight you currently carry:
- It starts with hiring. If its not a “Hell Yes!” it is a “Hell No!” I would say in roughly 50% of cases where we eventually had to let someone go, we talked ourselves into a hiring decision by dismissing a small detail or two that gave us pause during the hiring process.
- Take action fast. The tone set at the onset of poor performance determines the eventual outcome, or at least the gravity of the fallout later. This lesson would be learned over time, but I learned that it is near impossible for someone to overcome a “Mack Truck” of feedback, the result of a lingering situation. Set the tone early, and deliver consistent, timely feedback thereafter.
- Give the benefit of doubt. One of the first team members we let go said those words to me. They have stuck with me ever since. With this phrase in mind, I wouldn’t reverse the decision on this instance, but I would have approached the situation differently. Egregious acts aside, give folks the benefit of doubt to work through their particular issues until it is clearly evident they cannot continue.
- Shake hands out the door. This is the mantra I told the team we should strive for. Do everything in our power so that if and when the time comes, they’ll shake our hand as they walk out the door. It didn’t always happen but I wanted every single person in the company to feel confident that everything possible was done to avoid this situation.
- Find a new home. Most people want to succeed. I treated the act of letting someone go as a means to help people find success when it was no longer possible in our environment. Provide introductions to recruiters, send links to capable roles, and provide as much assistance as necessary or feasible to help someone find success. This sets the tone for the team that you care about people as individuals, not just when they’re providing work to the company.
If you have some weight you need to deal with, let me know, I’d be happy to bend an ear and be your accountability partner.
As a final thought for today, the weight you carry might also be a bad client or a vendor. For the most part, same rules apply.
Have a great month of May!
“Radical Candor” is an exceptional book on providing quality feedback.
Blog post I wrote on the importance of a good team member exit process.