I’ve had to fire or let go a handful of people in my career. Firing someone can be tough, but if you follow these guidlines you should do just fine.
Here are my learnings:
Make The Decision Fast
The adage, “Fire Fast, Hire Slowly” is very true.
On the firing side, I have never regretted firing someone who was a consistent problem. On the flip side, I have often regretted moving too slowly on firing someone.
If your gut tells you that a person isn’t working out, you owe it to your business and the employee in question to move fast.
Clarify The Reason You’re Firing Them
You need to identify the reason that you’re firing your employee (for yourself first; and then later to explain to the employee). It could be for performance..or it could be that they did not fit into your culture.
Whatever the case, have it well-thought out for yourself and have specifics (examples or data) to back you up.
Document The Reason You’re Firing Them
You should make sure that you or the hiring manager document the reasons for the termination before the actual firing.
The most common way to do this is in a performance review (also called a Performance Appraisal) in which you share your feedback with the employee in question.
I should write an entire article on Performance Reviews…but in the meantime, check out Performance Appraisal for more background.
The most important point is that the employee should not be surprised that they are not working out…and the details of this should be documented so that if the terminated employee ever tries to to sue you for Wrongful Termination, you will have written details to show a hudge.
Determine Their Last Day
Now that you’ve decided to be decisive (good for you!), you should determine when you’d like the person to leave.
If the person you’re firing has done something crooked, you may be choosing for their last day to be immediate.
In most cases, the person you’re firing is just not performing to your standards or is not a good fit with your culture or values. In that case, I try to be consistent with all employees by using a standard amount of notice (2 weeks, 30 days, 2 months, etc.); though this may vary based on how long they’ve been with you or what their seniority is.
If you don’t have a standard, then use your next firing to determine your standard (so that this is easier on you in the future!).
If your company is small, like many I’ve worked in, it’s ok for you to learn as you go!
Determine Their Final Deliverables
Figure out exactly what you need from them between the time you fire them and their last day.
I prefer to make this list a fairly short list of deliverables to allow the fired employee to have some extra time to search for a job.
Determine Their Severance (if any)
Next you need to determine what severance payment if any you will pay them.
Again, this should be consistent where possible. There should be a minimum severance package for an employee who had just recently joined the company (i.e. less than a year) and there can be extra severance based on longevity and seniority.
For example, some companies pay a minimum severance of 1 or 2 weeks to anyone they let go and then an additional week of severance for each additional period they’ve been there (e.g. an extra week of severance for every year they’ve been at the company)).
Your industry may play by different rules so you should ask around.
And, again, if you don’t have a standard set of severance packages yet, that’s ok — you can use your next firing or two to establish one.
The point is to be standard/consistent so that this will be easier for you in the future.
What to Say When Firing Someone (Write a Firing Script)
Now we’re getting closer to having to actually fire the person. This is a very important conversation and I urge you to write out a script of what you’re going to say.
Here’s a script that I used to fire Cooper (don’t worry, I’ve never fired a real Cooper before):
1. “Cooper, this isn’t working out between us.”
2. “The primary reason is [fill this in with the reason(s) that you already identified above] “E.g.: “Cooper, the reason this isn’t working out is that we believe we need a more experienced person in your position to help us reach our objectives.”
3. “We value you immensely, Coop (list all his contributions and really make him feel loved).”
4. “And what we’d like to do is give you time to figure out your transition.” (This is optional based on when you determined their Last Day (see above) to be).
5. “Since we know it’s easier to find a job while still an employee, you can remain a paid employee until [fill in the date (see above)] ”
6. “Between now and [fill in the date], we ask that you complete the following deliverables, and you can feel free to use your remaining time as “flex time” to search for a job.
7. “We’ll do our best in supporting whatever next job you get.” (e.g. You say you’ll be willing to act as a reference (assuming you see some positive things in the person) or at least will confirm that they worked at your company)).
I recommend you practice the script with a fellow executive, your manager or a mentor. Do a dry run-through together — it will make you much more comfortable with the difficult conversation you’re about to have.
Really dig into what Cooper’s pain point is going to be regarding his imminent employment termination. It may be that he is driven by some extra money (i.e. severance) or it it may be that it’s very important for him to save face.
The Actual Firing
Ok, now comes the part you probably fear the most (I did too): You have to tell the employee that he or she is out of here.
Here’s what I do:
Most of the time, Cooper will eventually accept the decision; though he may try to bargain a bit in which case you should be open to exceptions to any of the terms you outlined if Cooper makes a strong case). But if you’ve done your homework, your Severance and Timing will have been fair and Cooper will accept it.
Other Things To Consider
A final reminder that I can’t emphasize enough: Deal with the issue swiftly.
You owe it to your company, yourself and Cooper to be decisive. Plus, the sooner you act the more flexibility you have in helping Cooper on his way (and the more money and headaches you save everyone).
And if you want to minimize the number of people you fire, please read You Must Topgrade.
If you have questions not covered in this article, please comment below (it can be anonymous).
I was inspired by the book MoneyBall by Michael Lewis who chronicles the Oakland A’s baseball team and its strategy of focusing on undervalued players in the Major Leagues.
I’ve found some success in applying this to business. Specifically, I am always on the look out for undervalued people.
Here are two examples of undervalued people I look out for and find:
Falling Stars (or “Falling Angels”)
Falling Stars are workers who hit a certain apex in their career and then for some reason fell — often far — from that level.
The reasons they are “falling” may include personal problems such as divorce, substance abuse or alleged unethical or illegal activity.
Such Falling Stars are worth a close look to be given a second chance, especially if they proved themselves for a long period of time before their fall from grace.
I recall an attorney who was having a challenging time on the job market because one of his prior employers had run into trouble with the Federal Government and this had tainted the attorney’s reputatin…but closer scrutiny showed that this individual had done nothing wrong and in fact had a track record of 25 years or proven value! He was a fallen star.
Note: Since I wrote this post, I read a good post by Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban in which he used the term “fallen angels” to describe players who were former stars on the decline in performance, but whom improved in the right new situation.
Mark gets it.
Diamonds in the Rough
A second example of undervalued people is what I refer to as “Diamonds in the Rough.”
Diamonds in the Rough are different than Fallen Stars…as the label implies — they are quite valuable individuals who are simply not appreciated for their potential.
Diamonds in the Rough usually exist because of poor managers or leaders surrounding the Rough Diamond.
A good place to look for such Diamonds in the Rough are mismanaged companies as they sometimes forget to dig deep enough to find their diamonds.
A good sign of a mismanaged company is one ego-driven management; they typically take their Diamonds for granted.
A great time to hire Diamonds is when their employer is not doing so well in business…perhaps their sales have flattened or profits are down. The Diamond will have his or her antennae up a bit higher during those times…and you can scoop in and hire them!
MoneyBall Author Michael Lewis has written a couple of other good books I recommend (especially if you like “inside baseball” type books with real-life characters being written about as if they were fictional:
Liar’s Poker: Rising Through the Wreckage on Wall Street (in inside look at Wall Street from his four years working at Salamon Brothers) and
The New New Thing: A Silicon Valley Story (About Jim Clark who founded Silicon Graphcis, Netscape and Healtheon)
Below is a list of the 16 Jung Personality Types.
Click on any one of them to learn more details such as good careers and famous people for each type.
If you haven’t already taken the quick test, take it here: Personality Type Test — It’s free!
There’s also a fun Simpsons TV Show Personality Test.
If you enjoy personality types, you might also enjoy the The Nine Enneagram Personality Types
There’s a free 72-question online personality test (don’t worry, it’s all yes/no questions) that you can take to help determine which of the 16 Carl Jung personality types you are.
Some people call it the Jung Typology Test.
Here are some tips for you BEFORE you take this really valuable test:
Ok, enough pep-talk. Click here to get your Free Personality Test
One more thing: Afer you’ve taken the test, don’t forget to check out The 16 Personality Types so you can find out more about your particular type (including careers that make sense for you and famous people who are your personality type!).
Catchy headline, right?
Well, it’s true…and most of it happened over 6 months.
So, here’s my story on how I accidentally lost 30 pounds…maybe you or a loved one can benefit.
It started about two years ago when I was 39 — I weighed 203 pounds at my highest point. The 30 pounds came off over a 12-month period (about 20 pounds within 6 months!).
And, again, I wasn’t trying to lose weight, so this is a weird one.
What’s a weight loss story without before-and-after pictures. I picked a couple in which I’m wearing roughly the same outfit (in this case a suit).
I have bathing suit pics too, but let’s not go there!
So what happened? Well, after the weight-loss, I reverse-engineered the experience best I could.
There are 5 items that stand out.
I like acronyms so I came up with “S.E.E.D.S” to outline the five steps (which are in no particular order).
The SEEDS Approach to Weight Loss
So, SEEDS is:
S = Sleep
I watched an episode on 60 Minutes that showed the effects of weight on Sleep deprivation. One normal looking guy (my age and weight) was put in a lab and woken up periodically so that his sleep was both inconsistent and shorter than it normally was for him.
The effect: he suddenly started eating twice as much food — they showed him eating an entire pizza with multiple toppings (and he remarked that he had never before eaten more than a couple of slices).
In other words, he felt tired and food represented energy to him. Well, the food certainly provided some short-term energy for him but it also added a bunch of calories to his body.
How much sleep do you need? Seven to 8 hours of sleep is widely considered to be healthy (I sleep an average of 7 to 7 and 1/2 hours).
It’s also important to make sure that you have as calm and deep a sleep as you can. One way to do this is to make sure you don’t consume caffeine too late in the day.
A massuese was giving me a massage and mentioned that she was also a nutritionist; I had a soy latte with me when I showed up for the afternoon massage and she told me to be careful as caffeine has a 6-hour half life.
So, for example, if you have a tea or coffee at 3pm and it contains 50 miligrams of caffeine, 25 miligrams of caffeine will still be in your body at 9pm and 12.5 miligrams will be in your body at 3AM.
So that 3pm cup of coffee is the same as having a half-cup of coffee at 9pm! That will effect your deep sleep (you still may fall asleep but you’ll wake up a big more groggy cuz of the caffeine).
I now try to have my last cup of caffeinated beverage at 12noon each day.
E = Eating
I met another nutritionist (a wonderful woman named Minna Yoo) at Samovar Tea House in San Francisco and traded her some business advice (she later launched a cool company called LoveBottle).
Minna’s advice: She drew a circle on my place mat representing a giant plate, and she drew a line in the middle of it and said that that half of your plate should be vegatables; then she drew a line through one of the halves so that there were two quarters — and she said one of those quarters should be protein (any kind you want) and the other quarter should be some sort of grains.
Minna also said that most people (including me) need around 1,200 to 2,500 calories per day (depending on how active you are) and you should spread that out over 4 to 5 meals (there are exceptions to this (if you’re an active athelete, or training for a marathon or Triatholon type event, for instance, you need/burn many more calories).
She told me that if I tried to eat those proportions for every meal, I would feel healthier. I have since adopted those proportions for most of my meals. The key: make sure to keep enough veggies and protein around.
Some other eating tips I found during my weight loss:
The Next E = Exercise
I had previously exercised 4 or 5 times a week and I stepped that up to daily. Some of my approaches to keeping this up:
D = Drinking (as in less alcohol)
I cut my drinking by one-third, from an average of three drinks a day to two drinks a day.
That oesn’t sound like much but beer, wine and cocktails have about 100 to 150 calories in them so if you do the simple math of drinking one less drink per day then that will cause a decline in your calorie intake of about 5% (the average person should have about 2,500 calories per day).
Calories are similar to weight, right, so just think that one less beer or cocktail a day could help you reduce your weight by 5% (since I was 203 lbs at my peak, that could have been 10 lbs right there!)
S = Spirituality (Optional)
This last step is really an optional/bonus round…as I feel the previous four steps are key and this one is more of a multiplier!
I added a form of spirituality to my life during my weight loss period in the form of yoga.
I can’t explain any scientific reason why yoga helped me with weight loss, but my hunch is that it was the icing on the cake to my four other tips (Sleep, Eating, Exercise and Drinking). The main benefits I get are to let go of stress and “just be” as they say.
Since I take a Vinyassa Flow class in 75 degree temperature, it’s also an excellent detox (I break a sweat every time!).
While any one of the 5 SEEDS (Sleep, Eating, Exercise, Drinking and Spirtituality) will help you lose weight, I believe there’s also a compound effect (the lollapalooza effect as investor Charlie Munger calls it) that took place in me improving in all five of these categories, even if just a little.
I was very lucky that I happened to dabble in all five at the same time!
So, that’s how I accidentally lost 30 pounds! I’m still at around 172 pounds and feelin’ great!
The Daily Huddle has arguably been one of the greatest productivity and efficiency boosters I’ve personally experienced.
Since I started using it, I’ve run into numerous industry leaders (such as the Ritz Carlton and Johnson & Johnson) who benefit from the Daily Huddle.
Duhh, why didn’t I begin this 20 years ago!
I first read about the concept of the Daily Huddle in Mastering the Rockefeller Habits, which may be the best how-to book for small businesses that I’ve read. Its author Verne Harnish was inspired by the habits of business tycoon John D. Rockefeller and translates those for you to apply to business today.
I know, I sound pretty excited about this stuff — that’s cuz I am!
So, what is the Daily Huddle? Well, for starters, I use the term “Daily Huddle” because I like the ring of it — you may have heard it called names like Daily Scrum, Daily Pulse, Daily Agile, Daily Lineup (Ritz Carlton) or Daily StandUp. The concept is what counts.
Let me outline the basics first:
The agenda is the same every day. I recommend you first test out the Rockefeller Habits’ suggested agenda. That’s what I did and we didn’t need to change a thing.
Here are some other things I’ve noticed from my experience with the Daily Huddle.
And please read Mastering the Rockefeller Habits — it’s chock full of other valuable habits and ideas for businesses to grow.
You should comment below about your experience with the Daily Huddle — I really want to hear your opinion!
I used to consider “Sales” a bad word; until I got good at it!
In this case if you’re not comfortable with the idea of “selling’ you can replace “Sales” with “persuading” or “problem solving” — now let’s help you sell!
Neil Rackham wrote a terrific book called SPIN Selling in 1996. What I like about it is that it provides you a framework for selling better based on the results and experience of thousands of salespeople and their supervisors.
Most important tip: The more questions you ask, the more effective you will be.
So, what is SPIN Selling?
SPIN is an acronym that stands for Situation, Problem, Implication and Need and the book recommends that you ask questions about all four of those.
Below are some SPIN Selling questions to ask (let’s pretend you are selling vacuum cleaners):
So, when trying to persuade or problem-solve or sell, try asking lots of questions first and focus on your buyer and what will lead to their big payoff!
SPIN Selling is a must-read for any business-person; it explains SPIN selling techniques and backs it up with detailed research. Rackham later came out with the SPIN Selling Fieldbook which is also an excellent read.
I recommend you buy SPIN Selling first and then if you have people on your team who you want to share the concept with, then buy them a copy of the slightly less expensive Fieldbook.
Do you have any thoughts on the SPIN Selling technique or the topic of sales in general — if so, please make a comment below.
It can cost you 13-times a person’s annual salary if you hire the wrong person, according to Brad Smart.
A dozen of my colleagues and I were lucky enough to spend two days with Brad in Chicago in October 2005 when we took his Topgrading training program (which I also recommend).
The 13X cost of a mishire was a stunner! …