About the Episode
No employer or manager ever wants to have the tough conversation of letting an employee go. It is not something to look forward to when you realize that is the best for your company and at the end of the day, best for that employee too.
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Today’s a little bit of a vulnerable moment for me, I’m gonna open up my heart to you a bit because we’re going to talk about tough choices in business, and I’m happy that I’m recording today, because today, I had to fire somebody who is actually in my top tier people in my suite and my C suite, and it’s never an easy choice, I’m going to give you a little bit of background, but I’m sure this will resonate with you. Because if you’re ever in business, at any point, if you’re ever in a supervisory role, a management role, a C level role, or as an entrepreneur, yourself, these moments are going to come. It’s that good people come, bad people come into your business, and they all most of the time typically end up flowing through, it’s very infrequent that you’ll have somebody stay with you for a decade or more in business. We’re going to dive into this today. So share this out with three people, because this is one that’s going to hit home for everybody, and it’s really going to resonate and just give you what to expect, when you have to go through this thing.
You might be listening to this already and maybe have been through this, I don’t know, you might be thinking about going through this. Because it’s always exciting. It’s always exciting to hire people, and there’s this compassionate side of me anyways, to where if someone needs something in life, it’s like, “Hey, I can help you, you know, I’ve got an amazing opportunity for you. You work hard, you fit the culture, you have the competency.” That’s amazing. You’re in, right. And there’s two things I really look for when I hire people. I’ll talk about that.
First, before we get into the firing side, there’s two things that I look at when I hire people. It’s competency, and character, and really, it’s kind of like in reverse order with that meaning character is greater for me than competency is. Most people can be trained or learned to do mostly everything you know, and there’s certain areas of talent that some might have and not others, and there’s also a difference between talents and skills. To me, talent is something that you’re just naturally innate, it’s inside of you. Skills are something that you can learn. You can even get to a certain level with skills. But if you don’t have the talent to match, you’ll never go past that certain level. However, for the most part, skills can be learned, you know, if it’s how to use a certain software app like Salesforce or something or ClickFunnels, or, you know, Active Campaign, or Infusionsoft, or Kajabi, whatever the apps are, that you use today, or G Suite, Google workplace. That’s a skill that pretty much anybody can learn, and those are very common apps in today’s business world.
The talent side of it helps you fit what role you’re going to end up playing out. So when I look at somebody, when I go through the hiring process, and I don’t hire many people anymore, it’s mostly people that are under me, that hire people, because I sometimes tend to make bad decisions. I’m just going to give you that straight up, because I have so much compassion. My heart goes out to a lot of people too, and I’ve talked about this before in a previous episode about hiring strays, right? So I won’t dive into that too much. Go listen to that episode two about hiring strays, and even just strays in your life I remember talking about and in that one, I would see somebody and be like, “Hey, I can help you,” and then ultimately, at the end, just because they didn’t have the talent, they didn’t fit that role, that I would end up having to let them go or they would quit because it was on me that I had them in a bad spot in a bad position within the company, something that they couldn’t do, really couldn’t learn how to do or just straight up didn’t want to do. That’s me and my heart jumping out and saying I would love to be able to provide you a home because that’s one of the reasons why I do what I do. Why I’m an entrepreneur. I love payroll because I love influencing people’s lives in a very positive way monetarily, with inspiring inspiration, you know all of those things. That’s why I love people working for me or being within my organizations because I know that I can have a positive influence and positive income on their life, impact, influence and income.
Now, when I have hired people in the past I shifted to, because again, for me character is more primary, you sort through applicants, you have resumes, whatever, right? You know, I started even sending out little questionnaires like 10 Question questionnaires to say, answer these first, you know, because I could see resumes and resumes would help show me the competency of an individual assuming that they’re true. That’s a little bit of a joke, right? Then the questionnaire that I would have, you know, which would show me their character, depending on how they answered the questions. It was very interesting, as I saw this, that as somebody would go through questions, one through one through 10, some people would have really, really, really, really short answers. I’m talking like one word, three words, maybe a short four word sentence, something like that. In other words, people would take the time to go through and actually think about how they were responding or just be a little bit more vulnerable with those. And those ended up being the ones that I talked to the most, because they exposed their character, their good, strong character, and that, and then my next step in the hiring process, would be a short 15 minute zoom call.
I would do this even before the pandemic, even before zoom, really took off, you know, went from, you know, 3 million to 30 million users or whatever it was that extreme crazy number, maybe it was 30 million to 300 million zoom users, as soon as COVID hits. But I would do this before the pandemic, I would invite those individuals that answered the questionnaires, or the survey in a way that I liked onto a 15 minute get to know us zoom call, it was just like a pre interview. I would actually intentionally keep their resume away from my view, I would, I would have their questionnaire up. But you know, and there are basic questions about them about life, about where they’re going, you know, and I wish I had this in front of me because I could redo some of the questions, but maybe I’ll link it or something like that in the show notes, and you can take a look at what these questions were. So I would have them on this 15 minute zoom call and just start to get to know them personally and intentionally keep their resume away from me that way, I didn’t dive into their skills, because really, I just wanted to focus completely on them as a human, as a person as somebody that I could interact with to gauge their character, and how they might fit in with my culture. Because remember, as the founder, as the CEO, your entire organization ends up as a reflection of you, as a reflection of your character as a reflection of your culture.
I needed to make sure that people coming on board would be able to fit into that, that they would be able to take on at least a portion of my persona and the culture that I want in my organizations, and then whoever really passed that, that the character part first, then I would have a longer interview. You know, if it was with me with something I was responsible for, or with one of my other people, if it was somebody they’d be managing, then it would be for me to pass them off to that person that has the competency side. That would be a longer interview, like 45 minutes, hour or whatever, to dive into how they would react in specific situations and really kind of hone in on their skill sets, on their abilities, on their competency, on their talents. But first was always character. Still, some didn’t work out, and that’s what I’m diving into.
When I was with BestBuy years ago, I had about 150 people working for me. I was a business manager, a regional business manager, and underneath me were you know, salespeople underneath me were Geek Squad individuals that would actually install the things that we were selling. underneath me were supervisors and other managers too. So I had a whole hierarchy that was beneath me, and out of 150 people, it was interesting, because some of my managers would actually ask me, even though they had the ability and the authority to actually fire people to let them go. Or even my peers that were in the same role that I was at had a lot of people working for them. A lot of times they would ask me to sort of have that final conversation with everyone. It was because they didn’t want to get to that point to where they actually had to say,” Okay, it’s time for you to go, it’s time for us to part ways or you’re fired, or it’s just time to be done. Here’s your last paycheck,” whatever the way that conversation would go, they just didn’t want to have it.
So somebody asked me one time and then it just got around that I would be the one that would be willing to do this. I didn’t mind because I just saw it as part of the job. But I always saw it interesting that a lot of fellow managers and regional level people would have difficulty with this, and I think their difficulty with it is a little bit different than my difficulty with this. They just couldn’t stand conflict. That’s what I saw for the most part, and there’s a lot of times in life, this is like Lesson number one today, right? Conflict in life is unavoidable. You will have conflict in your life, no matter what it looks like, or whatever, you will have conflict several, many times in your lifetime. And it’s not something to avoid, it’s something to prepare for. Conflict is not something to avoid. It’s something to prepare for. Now, take that in for a minute. Because it’s not like you’re out there searching for conflict. No way, you don’t want to do that. But it’s like when it does come up, because it’s impossible to avoid all conflict in life. Period, there is something that’s going to happen at some point, even if it’s down to I ordered a cheeseburger and I didn’t want pickles on it. You know, what do you do at that point? Do you just take the pickles off or whatever. But you know what, for me, I hate having the pickles served on my burger. I don’t like pickles. I hate having them served there and taking him off because the juice is still on the burger, and I still taste it. I just don’t want to taste it.
So for me, it’s like, “Hey, can you remake this for me, please,” it’s not a big deal, because there was an agreement that was there, right? An agreement between you and the server in the kitchen that says this is the way our guest wants it. So we should prepare it that way, and thus, charge them accordingly for the food that we prepared in the way that they requested. Right? There’s an agreement, they’re saying, I’m going to pay you money for a very specific product or result that comes back. Now, the parallel here is when you hire somebody, when you have somebody working for you, it’s the same arrangement, you’re going to pay them for a very specific outcome or specific result or specific level of performance, and it should be, it should be just as easy as sending that cheeseburger bag, it should be that easy and cut and dry. After you give the person enough chances to say you know what, it’s just not working out.
Now, these other managers, these peers of mine, who would have difficulty letting people go, they just were trying to avoid conflict. They’re probably the individuals that are like, You know what, I’ll just eat the cheeseburger, I’ll take the pickles off of it, I can still taste the juice that kind of tastes disgusting, but that’s okay, I’ll just eat it just because they don’t want to have the conflict. They’re trying to avoid conflict almost at all costs, even when this individual is very clear that they’re not performing, and they’re not the right fit for the role, whatever it is, maybe like, “Hey, Rick, can you step in here, a lot of times that happened.” I can tell you this, whether it was a direct somebody who was working directly underneath me, or when I was helping out a peer even because I had the authority when I was helping out appear in these final conversations, to terminate an employee. It was never easy. It was never easy to fire somebody. For me anyways, but when it was cut and dry in those scenarios, where it’s like, Hey, this is what we agreed upon, this is the level of performance that you agreed to give. And I agreed to pay you for this level of performance. And it came back unsatisfactory.
Now this level of performance could be KPIs, this level of performance, you know, if it’s a salesperson, meaning you, you are expected to sell a certain amounts, or it could be a service person, that you have a level of data, a level of key performance indicators, stats that they have to maintain, or perform at a specific level, like in my organization, like if it’s a resolution time on a specific ticket, those are things that are agreed to ahead of time that say, here’s our standard of performance that you have to fit into. It could even be culture related, right? Or it could be you know, this is how much engagement I want on social media. If you have a social media manager that’s working for you there, there always should be this agreed upon performance indicator, and sometimes in a startup, it’s a little bit hard, you know, and it’s based a little bit more on the character, the competency, really more so the character of the individual, and if there’s still a good fit and helping advance things, but still that’s that’s an agreed upon measurement, right helping advance things in some way, rather than being stagnant or not delivering anything whatsoever.
Every single time I’ve had to fire somebody it’s never been easy, just like today. And I actually got a haircut today too, and I was talking with my barber. And as I’m getting ready to go sit, he was thinking, he just made a comment out loud. He’s like, “Ah, man,” he’s like, “Sometimes I don’t get it, or I regret some choices in my life.” He was talking about something very benign. But at the moment, I said to him, too, I’m like, You know what, me too. But usually, what I regret is not making the choice fast enough. Meaning, most of my choices in my lifetime, I live with no problem, I don’t really have regrets on the choices that I make. However, the regrets that I have was actually the amount of time that I would take sometimes, before making that choice. Because I would let it ride a little bit longer, you know, whether it had to do with myself or with firing somebody or with anything, it was the delay in making the choice, it actually caused more harm to me and people around me than making the choice itself, because the choice needed to be made.
So in this case, today, I left this one right about 45 days past where it should have. And it was pretty obvious because it was a standard of performance that was agreed upon, and then absolutely nothing was produced in that time period. However, at the same time, the reason why I took that 45 days is because of my compassion for this individual, and had nothing to do with avoiding the conflict. Because when I finally decided to make the choice, which I should have made way beforehand, no kidding, and this may sound cruel, but it doesn’t have to be this way or sound this way at all. The phone call was one minutes, I’m talking 60 seconds. That’s it. When you get to that point with whatever choice it is, whether it’s firing somebody, whether it’s ending a relationship, whether it’s entering a relationship, whether it’s hiring somebody, whatever it is, as soon as you make that choice, it’s time to just do it, and be done with it, and then move forward because it’s going to keep you in that spot. The longer that you choose to keep yourself in that spot, the more it’s going to hurt yourself, affect yourself negatively and the people around you because now you’re just sitting in the muck. While all of this bad stuff is happening around you, which you have complete control over.
When it came down to it today. It took 60 seconds. That’s it for the conversation, and it was simple. It just went something like this. And I even apologized ahead of time. Because I didn’t want it to happen. I didn’t want it to be this way. Truly, I didn’t want to have to do this. I didn’t want to take away income from this individual. But the fact is that this person chose not to perform to a standard that was agreed upon between the two of us. So really is it me, that is taking something away? Wrong, it was that individual that was not giving what was agreed upon to begin with, are you following me on this. And when you start to look at it like that, like black and whites, to where if you give chances and in this case, I actually provided some professional supervision in a very uplifting and inspiring way to this individual and let it go way too long. It was about three months total, and I let it go about half that period too long. Because you could tell from the beginning, that this wasn’t going anywhere, even with everything you would provide, because it’s pretty clear cut and you’ll be able to notice this right away when somebody is going to perform or they’re not going to perform. It’s not on you. It’s not really your choice to do it, to take something away.
It’s really that individual choice when you fire somebody that individual’s choice to not give what was agreed upon you following me on this, I hope you are and when it came to it when the decision was finally made, you just do it. It doesn’t have to be long, it doesn’t have to be drawn out. I was genuine and sincere when it said I’m sorry, this is not going to be a good phone call, and then just went into it. We’re done. I’m separating you from the organization. I know you have equipment that needs to be sent back so and so we’ll be in contact with you, and I wish you the best I truly do, and in every single one of those words, I was absolutely sincere. Every single one of them all the way from my apology to truly wishing this person the best in life. It doesn’t have to be long.
When you actually make the choice and you know what else actually choosing to take action on that doesn’t have to take a long time either. Get it done. The moment that you know that it’s not going to work. Do it right then and there. Don’t drag it out. That’s the best piece of advice I can give you today because the longer you drag out the worse you’re going to feel when you actually do it. Because even though it sucked, I truly hate doing this. I would rather have everybody workout. But that’s just not realistic. I would rather have everybody working oh my gosh, what I’d love to have everybody workouts. However, actually making the choice for separation, ironically, could be the best thing that you do for that employee, for that relationship for that vendor for that for that landscaper that you have, whatever it could be the best thing you could do for that individual, because it’ll force them to reevaluate their choices in their life. Go all in.
- Good People and Bad People will come in go in your business
- Competency and Character
- A questionnaire before getting an interview
- Prepare for Conflict, It’s Unavoidable
- Get What You Pay For: Employees and Service
- Agreeing upon a standard of Importance