To Fire or Not To Fire?

A burning question we all deal with is when a team member seems to not be following the vision or goals of the company and you’re just really not sure what to do. We all find ourselves in the battle between our ears of should we fire them, or should we not fire them? In most small businesses we end up spending as much time with other team members, and at the company as we do with our families having private and personal time.

This fact means we end up becoming very close with our team and building strong relationships which can be difficult to hold accountable because of such a strong personal component. Nobody wants to fire someone they like or have an attachment to. Nobody wants to fire somebody with a family. Heck, the reality is, for the most part nobody really wants to fire anyone ever.

If we are committed to the vision of the company, our entire team, and client base, we must be able to ask a few questions of ourselves while making what can be perceived as difficult decisions. I’ve had to fire many people in the course of my leadership career and it NEVER feels good, no matter what the circumstances are. However, when you have clear expectations, train to the skill set and mindset necessary, and keep the overall well being of the company in the forefront, you can quickly separate yourself from being the “bad person” if a termination is necessary.

I honestly don’t believe I’ve ever fired anyone in my life. I firmly believe that each team member I’ve ever had to terminate has actually fired themselves based on their own commitment, accountability, actions, and results.

That being said, it can still be difficult and we all need to question ourselves and our systems when faced with a challenging decision regarding setting someone free to move on to another opportunity, or to focus on helping them re-train or build new skill sets. Here are a few questions to help you find clarity.

Do they understand the expectation? – I do a lot of onsite training, coaching, and consulting and I find a lot of front line team members don’t have absolute clarity about what is truly expected of them to continue employment with the company. You must have clear expectations and goals that your team understands so they know on a daily basis if they’re winning or not in their particular position.

Have you trained them effectively? – We all love to have superstar team members show up that have been trained somewhere else and understand how our overall system works. But every company is different. As leaders, we must take full responsibility to make sure our entire team receives the training necessary so they can do their job effectively and execute at the highest level for our clients. If you can’t look yourself in the eye and know you’ve given them all the necessary training, then it is not their fault they aren’t hitting the mark you desire.

Have you given them necessary coaching? – The average NFL team has 18 coaches and 53 players. This means an average of a little more than 2.9 players per coach! Certainly this is not a reality we live in for team member to manager ratio, but it should shed some light on the importance of coaching peak performance. Just because you’ve trained a team member once, twice, or even three times in a particular area does not mean you are done. Consistent, ongoing, productive coaching is always going to be necessary to help team members continue to grow and prosper.

Willingness or Ability? – The final question to ask yourself and perhaps one of the most important boils down has to do with willingness. If a team member is struggling with ability, then I wholeheartedly believe in training, re-training, and coaching. I believe this as long as they have tremendous desire and are showing massive commitment as well as some forward progress. However, if they are simply not willing to utilize the training or be a part of the company’s team vision and goals, then it becomes a simple decision that it’s time to set them free.

Making a choice on whether to keep someone or set them free is always a challenging decision. But when you become as objective as possible and ask yourself these four questions, it can help give you tremendous clarity regarding your decision. Avoid being held hostage by consistently communicating your vision and values to your team, keep them involved, and keep training and coaching for peak performance with those that desire to be a part of your culture and team.


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