Regardless of who you’re leading, you have people reporting to you that should perform better. A sales team, technology professionals, the operations teams — sometimes you just need a little bit more from those involved.
A lot of books on leadership will tell you that under-performers should be fired. Jack Welch, the highly successful CEO of General Electric for 20 years made it a religion to fire anyone rated in the bottom of the company. Year after year, thousands of employees were cut loose to make room for “high performers”. Out with the bad. And in with the better.
And while that sounds sexy. It is often not the right move. Especially in today’s fast-moving economic churn.
The fire-and-hire cycle just leads to even worse results.
Frankly, the executive you think you should fire was probably performing like an all-star when you hired him. Given your skill at knowing what your company needs, you hand-picked that person. For their talents, their charisma, and a work ethic. They were the right fit.
And they probably still are the right fit for you now.
Life just got in the way. That’s what happens. Life happens. Busy executives have personal lives that get confused and chaotic. Sometimes, for no fault of their own, life deals them a unfair hand.
That extra pressure, that stress, can make him appear cynical. They can seem combative and argumentative. They don’t do their job as fast or as expertly as they used to. They just aren’t as creative. There’s no extra genius. No innovation.
The seem “washed up”. But the wrong approach is to fire them.
It’s not good for you as a company and it probably won’t teach any lessons to them either.
The truth is your under-performer is in a lot of pain.
They are hurting. And they know it. They might not want to share all their pain with you, but they know that they aren’t performing like they used to. And that’s how it has to be for right now.
The truth is that it is easier for them to underperform and use their emotional energy to fight the other hurts in their life than it is to perform for you like they used to. Their personal issues are more important then your business issues.
That’s the case most of the time.
Pain and fear beat the innovation and creativity out of talented business executives. Their personal challenges change them from the person they used to be to the shadow of an all-star they are now.
And firing them won’t change that.
For your company or for them or for you.
To help them, you have to heal them. To help yourself, you have to help them first.
That’s the secret. You have to help them solve their personal problems. You have to lead them to make the next few right decisions. And even though at times that is sticky and uncomfortable, the end result is rewarding.
That journey might take days or weeks or months or years.
Candidly, you might not be willing to invest that.
It might just be easier to fire and hire and hope the new executive has better luck than the old one.
But if you can care and heal — and if you do, you will have saved a person and grown your business and inspired all those around you. You will have changed the world.
And that’s probably why you got into business in the first place.