My last two columns addressed what it takes to build a sales driven team. While a disciplined hiring process is critical to finding Grade AA talent, there is one more activity that is often necessary in building your competent, stable, well led team. That is the action to eliminate any current staff members who do not contribute to a winning team.Terminating an employee is one of the most difficult parts of my work. Actually, it is the only part of my job that I can honestly say I do not like. However, over the years I have done my share of moving employees along, and for a number of different reasons. The main reason by far is that they no longer are a good fit.
Upgrade to Grow
Creating and maintaining a Grade AA team requires continual upgrading. Upgrading can be accomplished with training or additional education. Upgrading can also be accomplished by finding another person with better skills, intelligence, or attitude. Upgrading can also be accomplished by eliminating personnel who are interfering with the team achieving the highest level of performance.
I really love the book “Good to Great” by Jim Collins. I love the analogy between a bus and a business and the need to define where the bus is going and what seats you need to fill on the bus. The bus driver’s job is to get the right people on the bus and to get the wrong people off the bus. It starts with getting the right people in the right seats. While many owners and managers do not understand this approach, it is obvious that companies that get it will be more successful than those that do not get it.
Finding Grade AA talent may be stressful today, even though unemployment levels are high. But the more stressful task is getting the wrong people off the bus. This is especially true when the wrong person has been on board for a long time. Maybe they were the right person in the beginning, but something has changed. Maybe they have not taken the time to keep abreast of the technological changes in our industry. Maybe they have demonstrated that they have interests that are no longer in sync with the company interests. Or maybe you have finally realized they do not fit with the rest of the team or the overall culture of your organization.
Time to Let Go
If, after a certain amount of time, with the proper training, coaching, and practice, they do not measure up, a good manager knows when to move on. A good manager knows that spending too much time and effort trying to save an employee can be costly and detrimental to the entire organization. Oftentimes, managers go into denial or bury their head hoping the situation will go away or work itself out. Even though an employee may no longer fit the position or the team, a manager may continue to try and make it work because of the loyalty they feel toward the person or because they really like the person. Often they may try to make it work because of their fears about terminating a person.
If you have an employee who is not working out, everyone suffers: management, employees, the business, and even the person who needs to go. The people who need to be replaced will affect everything you do. They drag down the morale of the company. They drag down the productivity of the company. They will cost you money in poor quality, poor service, lost customers, etc. You will also lose respect from good employees by not firing this person or by taking too long to take action. If you do not take action when needed, you run the risk of losing those good employees.
I have observed so many instances where a failure to take action has enabled a single employee to hold the entire team hostage. Owners avoid the action because they feel the employee has irreplaceable skills or may be very connected with customers. This usually happens with long term employees. Their ego stands in the way of cooperation and teamwork. Other employees walk on eggshells around them and are afraid to talk to them for fear of an uproar.
However, time and time again, I have seen the positive effects that result when the owner or manager finally faces up to the task. The rest of the staff eagerly steps in to fill the gap. Cooperation and productivity rise dramatically. Morale rises and the workplace becomes a happier place. And with proper planning, those fears of what might happen prove totally unfounded.
Termination Requires Planning
Firings are emotional events, and they should be treated with consideration and forethought. Like any major business activity they must be thoroughly planned. Planning should cover who will do the firing, where will it be done, when to actually do it, and who else needs to be informed before the firing. It is important to virtually script out what will be said to the employee to ensure against saying the wrong thing.
There are some guidelines to consider when conducting a termination:
• Be straightforward. Be very clear about the reasons for the termination, and be very clear that it is a termination.
• Be supportive. Encourage the employee to think of this as an opportunity to find something better suited to his or her skills.
• Allow the employee to speak, but don’t get drawn into an argument.
• Be clear about the next actions, such as turning in company property, clearing the desk, etc.
• Describe termination benefits such as severance pay, COBRA insurance, and outplacement services that are available.
• After the meeting, record exactly what happened and put these notes in the employee’s file.
Just remember that your approach to firing must meet two critical criteria:
• Protect the dignity and the rights of the employee being terminated.
• Protect your company from retaliatory action by a disgruntled former employee.
Fire an employee the right way, and the stress is temporary. Fire them the wrong way, and you could experience some serious long term consequences. Fail to fire them when it is necessary, and you will have even greater stress in your life.
Debra Thompson is president of TG & Associates. Her latest book, coauthored with Bill Greif, “No More Rotten Eggs–A Dozen Steps to Grade AA Talent Management”, has been published by McGraw-Hill and is available through bookstores everywhere or at www.NoMoreRottenEggs.com. Contact Debra or Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org for information on the assessment tools that they provide that can help you evaluate your staff so that you can build a sales driven team.