In the world of business, entrepreneurship, management, leadership… there are going to be occasions when letting someone go is necessary. It is never easy, but necessary. It is important to recognize why you are letting the person go, and that you let the person go.
When it comes time to let the person so, as the leader, you need to have done everything possible to help the person succeed. This includes training, educating, mentoring, finding the right fit (the right job in the organization), counseling, motivating, etc. If you have done each of these to the best of your ability (and this is not an all-inclusive list), and the individual is not receptive, then you can justifiably say it is time to go.
Generally, when you hire someone in the first place, they are perceived to be technically competent and have the right “stuff” to get the job done. They have the experience, the savvy, charisma, knowledge, etc. When you bring them on board, reality sets in and some of these attributes may not have been quite accurate. This is where your leadership comes into play. Work with them and help them become what they have the potential to become. When you have done all that you (and they) can do, and it is not working out, then it is best to move on.
Why? Well, it may seem obvious, but they are not the right fit for your team and organization – even if they think so. As the leader, you must invest the time to ensure they are the right fit. If they are technically competent yet do not get along with others, how is this affecting your organizational climate or culture? Are they charismatic yet incompetent and contribute insignificantly to your mission, how does this affect your team? Probably not very well, if at all.
Additionally, you are doing them a disservice by keeping them on a team that they are not ready for (for whatever reason). Many people do not like to fire (let them go, terminate, encourage them to move on…) because it is uncomfortable and it will devastate the individual. If you, as the leader, have done your job the entire time, then their departure from the team should be expected – because you have helped them, trained them, given them opportunities, etc. At some point, you may (should) have even told them they need to get on track or be prepared to move on – in a more personable manner of course. The point is, them moving on should not really be a surprise.
Whenever terminating anyone for any reason, do it yourself. Do not delegate this to someone else when you should be doing it. In many cases this works. In a small business, the employee works directly for you. In a team, the individual likely reports to you or a subordinate leader. In a department, you are responsible for your team – so you own everything that goes on (or doesn’t), and that includes the uncomfortable “letting go”.
I know there are organizations that have human resource policies that require the HR department to be more involved, or you come across a hostile employee that needs security to escort them out of the door, but for all intents and purposes, you as the leader need to tell them what is happening and why.
Going back to the why helps the individual know actually why they are being let go. And actually tell them why they are being let go. Giving them some generic “this is not the right fit” does not help them move on. Give them actual reasons why they are being let go. This will help them improve for their next adventure. Remember, just because they were not the right fit for your team or organization, does not mean they are not the right fit for another. So, keep this in mind. If it was truly just a fit issue, help them find something else in another organization which could suit them. This could be your last bit of leadership you can provide them – helping them move on and seeing the benefit in doing so.
However, if they are hostile, always late, unproductive, or anything that you just cannot stand behind, a reference may not be a good idea – but you still need to tell them so they know where to improve.
It is your responsibility
The last reason I will mention why you must do the deed, is it is your responsibility to do so. This is not one of those actions that you should delegate. If you own the small business, are the leader of a small team or department, etc. then you have the responsibility to have that conversation. I look at it this way, if I am the ultimate decision-maker on hiring them, then it is my responsibility to tell them it is time to move on (and why, of course).
I have seen cases where the terminating of an employee happens by a middle-manager, who was never part of the hiring process, who barely dealt with the individual except for punitive actions (while the true manager – notice I didn't say leader – provided the positive reinforcement), leaving the middle-manager in the “bad-guy” position. This destroys the middle-manager (or whomever this job was delegated to) because they are left doing the dirty work. This makes the individual strongly dislike their job, the organization, and likely does not see you as their leader.
To sum this up, lead your team and do everything you can to help them succeed. If, in the end, they are not suited to your team, you let them go and tell them why.
I would like to know what you think about this. Send us an email or comment below.
Until next time…
How many people can you supervise, manage, or lead?
I once heard someone brag that they had 12 direct reports while their peer only had 4. I have heard of people having 25 direct reports. My first thought is WOW!, how can all those people receive effective leadership from their boss? How can the boss be an effective leader? The person with 4, that sounds about right. But the rest, that is just insane (if you ask me).
How many people can you supervise? How many can you manage… lead? Is there a difference? Does it really matter? And what difference does it really make if you have 1, 10, or 100 people working for you?
It definitively matters – all of it.
First, let’s frame this question a little better. Is there a difference between supervising, managing, and leading? Of course! And here is my take.
If you are a supervisor, then you are the first line leader to those you that work for you. This generally requires knowledge of how and what your team does (not in a micromanaging way though). Tasks are delegated from you to them, and they report progress and issues directly to you. Chances are good that you provide periodic evaluations to them as well.
If you take this as “I am their supervisor” then you likely take your job seriously and provide regular (quarterly, annually, etc.) reviews and help your team members grow as individuals and as a team. You serve those that work for you and desire to see them succeed.
If you take this role as “I am just the supervisor” then you are probably disengaged and serve as some level of junior management with an additional duty of being responsible for others and their work. You accepted the role for the extra pay.
If you are a manager, then you are probably responsible for a larger group such as a retail store, restaurant, department in an office, and so on. You will have supervisors that report directly to you, and they may have subordinate supervisors as well. Your focus is on the bigger picture (strategy) of your department, store, or group. You receive guidance from your manager (boss, supervisor – leader), develop a plan, and delegate different aspects to your subordinate supervisors to implement.
If you handle your responsibility as “I am their manager” then you will be engaged and provide task and purpose to your subordinate supervisors, and enable them to make decisions. You also understand that they have their own team to supervise and give them the time to work with their team.
If you are “just the manager” then you are likely regurgitating directives from your supervisor and have your subordinates do the work. Little direction or clarification is provided and you are likely to be “checking the box” regarding most of your own duties – completing your piece of the strategic plan, overseeing the development of your subordinate supervisors, and those evaluations or reviews – those will get done some day.
Often, these position (supervisor and manager) can be overwhelming. If you find yourself in a position where you are just the supervisor or manager and you want to be more, ask your leadership for help – they should help you, it is their job. If not, then find someone who will!
If you are a leader, then you are providing motivation and inspiration, task and purpose, guidance and direction to those that work for and around you. Leading effectively will cause others to notice and respond positively, even if they do not work directly for you.
Leaders are distinct from supervisors or manager, or even directors. Supervisors, manager, and directors are titles – if you have the title, then you are one. Leaders, on the other hand, are not titles given to you with a raise. You either are one, or not. They are earned. But, leaders can be found everywhere – the supervisor, manager, employee, team member – anyone! An employee can motivate and inspire others to achieve more, the supervisor can provide clear task and purpose, encouraging them to achieve more for themselves and their team, or the manager can provide guidance and direction. They can all be leaders!
Back to the question, how many people can I supervise?
I look at it this way, what do I want to accomplish with your team? If you merely want to provide some level of oversight and direction, then you can probably supervise or manage 15, 20, who knows how many people – but probably quite a bit. If that is all you want to do, then sure.
Now, if you want to make a real impact, then supervising and managing should include mentoring, regular feedback, constructive criticism, opportunities for personal and professional growth, regular and consistent reviews. You should be open and available to have your team members bring just about any issue to your attention. Do this, and you will become – or be – a leader.
There is a cost to this. If you are really leading others, and fulfilling your leadership duties (mentoring, appraisals, professional development), then you will not have the time to do this for 25 people successfully. Consider the time it will take to do this effectively. Perhaps 5-8 is more reasonable. This will allow you to serve them and your organization well, and see them develop into future leaders themselves.
A solution to this is to develop subordinate leaders and empower them to make lead, manage, and supervise their own teams. This requires the fine art of delegation and can be quite empowering if done correctly.
So what do you choose? Do you ask for more direct reports so you can brag about how many people work directly for you? Or, do you develop others, and truly lead your team to success? The choice is yours.
As we wrap up 2016, I recommend developing a reading list to really set the tone for 2017. Amongst those books on your list, I suggest adding these great leadership reads to your list. This is not an all-inclusive list, and they are in no particular order. Take a few minutes, review this list, and find the ones that interest you. Feel free to share your favorite leadership, management, or business related book with us here. Have a great New Year!
Jared W. Snow
The Leadership Challenge
If you are confused about what people want from a leader than look no further. The Leadership Challenge is a well written and researched book will help leaders understand that members of a team want the same basis qualities in all leaders.
Principle Centered Leadership
The title says it all. Principle Centered Leadership makes a compelling case establishing character and principles as foundational to the leadership enterprise.
Primal Leadership by Daniel Goleman takes the concept of Emotional Quotient (EQ) and applies it to the leadership process. A must for anyone who wants to understand how emotions impact our ability to think as well as lead.
Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking
Blink by Malcolm Gladwell clearly illustrates the value as well as the pitfalls of going with our gut instincts. He also demonstrates why more systematic and rational approaches do not always lead to correct response either. Gladwell's treatise will help you strike the right balance in your life and work.
The Wisdom of Teams
The Wisdom of Teams by Katzenbach and Smith is the best book in the field on the subject. Leadership is about building high performance teams and these two authors provide valuable insight into making teams happen.
What Got You Here Won't Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful
Marshall Goldsmith discusses traits and habits that may have worked to get you to where you are now, but will not work to get you further in life, at your job, with your friends or family. A great read to help you take the next step in life, successfully.
The Peter Principle
How is it that the under-achiever gets promoted or the less-than-competent coworkers get transferred to a less demanding position? The Peter Principle is an easy read and discusses these phenomena and more, that many of us have experienced at some point in our careers.
Recently I became more aware of the issue of balancing the requirements of leading, supervising and managing, and task completion among supervisors and managers in the workforce. This poses a challenge for the organization, the supervisor, and the employee, each in their own way.
The organization needs to ensure that certain tasks are accomplished such as regulatory requirements, value creation, increased sales, customer and employee satisfaction, employee retention, growth, etc. To do this, the organization hires individuals to accomplish tasks such as supervising a team, producing a product or report, and providing customer service for example. All of these tasks and more, must get accomplished in order for the organization to survive and thrive.
The supervisor’s responsibility is to manage their team and ensure their product, service, or result is delivered in an efficient and effective manner. The role of the supervisor is also to provide the management, leadership, direction, mentorship, and training necessary to help their team succeed. Additionally, the supervisor must provide initial, periodic, and annual assessments and appraisals in order to properly evaluate their team members to ensure they are working towards their goal or realign them as necessary. A supervisor is also a subordinate to someone (even the CEO reports to the Board) and must provide some sort of deliverable – they must complete a task. This could be in the form of reports, assessments, evaluations, and so on.
The employee’s responsibility is to produce the product, service, or result in an efficient and effective manner based on the organizational needs and the direction of their supervisor. The employee in this sense, is the one doing the work. This is the individual and team that provide customer service, answer the help desk phone, piece together a product for shipment, and receive goods to be distributed.
The challenge that is imposed on the supervisor is the requirement for more and more supervisors to balance the needs of the organization, supervising their team, and producing deliverables at the same time. A good manager, capable of successfully managing their team and producing their reports on time becomes the recipient of more work – an opportunity to excel some might say. What occurs is, something is dropped. Generally, most supervisors choose to ensure their own supervisor is satisfied so they produce their report or other deliverable on time, at the cost of a fair and timely evaluation of their employee. Who suffers here? The employee doing the work of the organization.
How do we correct this?
First, the supervisor must shift their mindset form supervisor to leader. A leader knows when to stand up for injustice, make decisions, inspire others, and achieve success without the expense of others. This does not say there is no cost involved with making decisions and standing up for what is right. Sometimes, this may mean longer hours for the leader to produce their deliverable on time for their own supervisor and staying late to ensure their employee evaluations are completed on time, accurate, and helpful.
The leader must make known the hardship additional (excessive) tasks will impose on the team and eventually the organization. It could be that senior management was not aware of the potential issues. It could be an oversight or even a temporary shift in the workload due to another manager’s severe illness. Sometimes, knowing the reason for the extra work makes the work that much more important to complete – it may motivate those tasked with completing the work.
Other times, the work may be assigned just because management needs it to be completed and does not care what it costs. As the leader, it is your responsibility to balance the requirements of leading, supervising (and the responsibilities of that role), and completing your own tasks.
So what do you do? Do what is right and the best you can, and lead, motive, and inspire others.
Jared W. Snow
Many of us have said something like, “I am an efficient and effective leader, capable of leading teams to extraordinary achievements…” For some, these are just buzzwords used in an attempt to sound intelligent but often come across as, well, something else. For others, these “buzzwords” are true definitions of who they are and how they lead, but they cannot explain what it truly means. What does it mean to be an efficient leader? What does it mean to be an effective leader?
Efficiency and effectiveness are often used synonymously but are in reality a bit different. Efficiency can be attributed to the time or rate which something is accomplished, whereas, effectiveness is the accuracy or quality of the accomplishment. Which is more important?
Here is an example to illustrate the difference between the two.
It is appraisal time, you have 8 team members to evaluate, and you only have 8 hours to do them all, among your other tasks. So, you spend an hour developing a quality appraisal and you copy and paste your information into each of the remaining 7 appraisals. You are able to deliver all 8 appraisals, including your face-to-face discussions, in less than 5 hours. Each team member receives an appraisal, and you have 3 extra hours to do what you want. This is efficiency.
Alternatively, you spend more time developing an honest appraisal for each team member and deliver the face-to-face discussion, all in 8 hours. You conduct your appraisals in this way as each team member performed a different function, had different goals and tasks, and performed to a higher or lesser degree of quality. Each team member understands his or her successes and areas to improve for next year, thus, a more accurate assessment. This is effectiveness.
Which appraisal method is better? Is it more important to be efficient or effective in this case? In reality, as the leader, you should be constantly evaluating your team and the final appraisal should be a relatively easy wrap-up, but that is a topic for another day.
A leader that accomplishes a task quickly is efficient. A leader that accomplishes a task accurately is effective. A leader that can do both is efficient and effective. Are you an efficient and effective leader, capable of leading teams to extraordinary achievements?
Next week I will add to this discussion by addressing expectations and quality as they affect what is perceived as efficient and effective.
Jared W. Snow