Have you ever had to fire someone? If you are in a leadership position, be it running a small business or leading a Fortune 500 company, chances are you answered “yes” to that question. I have had to fire several people over the years and often struggled with knowing when to pull the trigger. In other words, how long do you work to coach someone up before you coach them out?

I have learned (the hard way) that dragging out an inevitable outcome does great harm to your company, team and ultimately the person you need to, as my friend Susan says, “make available to industry.” Fortunately, I did figure out a few things along the way. Some universal truths apply to any company — big or small (though large companies often have HR departments loaded with legal personnel and a litany of processes — but you should still be able to incorporate most of the steps that follow).

I cannot overstate the importance of laying the groundwork with your core values and the roles and responsibilities that your employees are accountable to prior to initiating a first-strike conversation. In other words, where have you failed your people? If we have not been clear in our expectations, we cannot expect people to rise to those expectations.

To reap the rewards of your single greatest asset — people — you must have all the right people in the right seats. Right people share your company’s core values and fit your culture. Right seat means they have the talent, desire and drive to do their job and do it well. When you have the wrong person — morale and culture suffer, and good people leave. When someone is in the wrong seat, productivity flatlines and frustration festers. So what do you do?

The EOS Toolbox includes a “3-Strikes Rule." As a leader and coach to your team, it is your job to set expectations and clear the path to drive accountability (among a million other things). What do you do when someone on your team does not fit in with your company’s culture or lack the competency to perform his or her job? Set up a first-strike meeting.

  • If this is a “behavior” or culture (wrong person) issue, be sure to include three specific examples to illustrate where they are below the bar.
  • Performance issues (wrong seat) are more straightforward (“Sam, you have missed your sales goals for two consecutive quarters.”)
  • For both situations, agree on the expected outcome and set a deadline and measurable for improvement. **A wrong seat issue is sometimes resolved simply by finding the right seat for that person — but this is not always an option.**

If that doesn’t do it, rinse and repeat. It’s time for your Strike 2 Meeting, done the same as your Strike 1 with new data points. If after this meeting the problem hasn't been corrected, there is a good chance your employee will leave on their own. If not, it’s time for a Strike 3 Meeting — and yes, just like in baseball — they’re out.

Keep these three points in mind for all three of your meetings:

1. Don’t back pedal or dilute your message. You are not here to apologize to him that you must have this meeting, but you should steer clear of any unnecessary harsh claims, annoyance or frustration during your conversation. Be kind and gracious, but direct and clear. Seek to understand their perspective and invite solutions (unless this is Strike 3)

2. Keep it short! Don’t drag out the point with a lot of filler and fluff to “soften the blow." Dragging it out only makes it worse for both of you.

3. Don’t allow them to pelt you with excuses or cast blame elsewhere (deflect and defend). Keep on track and bring the conversation back to them.

4. Practice, practice practice! If this is new to you (and perhaps even if it isn’t) it is tremendously helpful to run your meeting notes by a trusted mentor or colleague — and, if possible, role play. This one thing has been invaluable in keeping me focused and preventing unnecessary tangents.

Once you and your team are crystal clear on your company’s core values; and the roles and measurables each seat (or function) in your organization is accountable to; you will likely find your “3 Strikes Rule” on the endangered species list. Until that time you will find yourself with plenty of hiring mistakes. Don’t exacerbate the situation by ignoring it (and hoping it will magically resolve itself). You do a disservice to everyone involved and affected when you allow issues to go unresolved.

Take action! Your employee, your team and your company will be better off in the end.

Cheri Kuhn is a Professional EOS Implementer and founder of the Perfect Planner. Read her leadership blogs at traction-advantage.com/news/ 

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