Hire Slow, Fire Fast

Big Red Car here.  The Boss is still skiing in SBS but the season ends on Saturday.  Come home, Boss.  We miss ya!

[Not really because the Big Red Car and the house sitter are having a bang up time.  It’s Spring in Texas and the azaleas and bluebonnets are in bloom.  Life is good in the ATX.]

A good CEO is always hiring.  Always.  Always scouting for and recruiting talent to the enterprise.

When a company is really good, the talent is recruiting the company to hire them even when there are no apparent openings.

OK, Big Red Car, I think everyone gets that stuff .

Firing is hiring

Firing is part of hiring.  When talent does not work out — for any reason —  it is necessary to hire or promote a replacement.  That means you have to fire the incumbent to provide room for the newly hired talent.  Make sense?

In that way, many times the act of firing someone is the first step in hiring.

Firing is hiring!

Firing does not improve with time

When your first inkling surfaces that someone requires firing, it will not improve with the passage of time.  Take some comfort that folks often fire themselves by failing to accomplish objectives you have clearly set before them.

The necessity to fire someone or the failure to fire someone may often be destructive to the company.

A lot of folks will be looking at the recent “resignation” of Secretary of HHS Kathleen Sebelius as an example of a long overdue firing.  The Big Red Car thinks the President’s reluctance to fire her immediately opened him to charges of incompetence but perhaps more importantly the cure could not really be applied while there was still heat in that seat.

You have to get rid of the poison quickly.  If the incumbent needs firing.  Do. It. Now.  It will not get better with time and the damage done during the procrastination period may make the challenge even greater while exposing the CEO to fair allegations of incompetence.

Delayed firing is cowardice

When you fail to deliver the bad news that you know is coming, the organization may be thrown into Neutral.

When you take the decisive action to fix things, the organization may generate some new found energy as the problem is being treated with a bit of courage.

Not to take immediate action is cowardice

The Big Red Car counsels firing even if the position has to be left open and a temporary solution has to be embraced.  It is a two step process — like the Texas Two Step, ya’ll — and the first one does not have to wait for the second one to be tee-ed up.

If you know you are going to fire someone, do it now even if you are faced with a temporary solution in its wake.  I promise this is the right solution for the enterprise.

Think about this and embrace the simple notion of hiring slowly and firing quickly.

But, hey, what the Hell do I really know anyway?  I’m just a Big Red Car.  Be kind to yourself.  Call someone this weekend who misses you.  Tell someone tonight you love them — but not some else’s girlfriend [Pro Tip].



10 thoughts on “Hire Slow, Fire Fast

  1. First, let me specifically say I do not believe in “rank and yank”.

    However, I do believe that an organization performs around one or two levels above its worst performers, so if you get rid of really sub par performers, everyone else’s performance improves, conversely if you don’t everybody’s performance gets worse.

    Why is this? Everyone to some extent at some level knows they have to perform better than the worst if they clearly are not the worst that’s ok.

    Yes, people should always strive to perform their best and that should be innate but let me provide a personal example:

    I belong to the Knights of Columbus a fraternal catholic charity. I would love to say I’m the best Knight, but I clearly am not. However, I make sure I am better than the worst. When I am washing dishes after a fish fry I do the best job I can, but I do not make all of the meetings, etc, etc.

    • .
      Your observation about getting rid of the worst performers and thereby increasing the overall operational performance is true. I have seen and done it a lot of times. A good annual practice would be to fire the bottom 5% until everyone is an all star.

      The top guys cannot give more and thus when you get rid of the low performers the average performance is elevated. This is simple arithmetic.

      Motivation and inspiration and management and leadership is often most effective in the middle of any organization — again the top performers are already in overdrive — where there is room for improvement.

      All performance needs to evaluated once or twice a year based on the assignment and attainment of specific objectives. When this is done, the actual performance allows folks to fire themselves. People know when they are not performing.


      • The problem is making it an annual practice with a target:

        1. If you suck you are gone now. Not at a set date.
        2. Saying I am going to get rid of 1 out of 20 means you might as well say politics is more important than performance. I better hire somebody shitty because I have to get rid of one.

        That is why I hate rank and yank.

        • .
          I do not disagree with what you say. There is no reason to delay a firing for any reason. The blog post counsels fire QUICK.

          I do think that very few companies have an effective Performance Appraisal system. Some of the most important questions that should be faced are:

          Should I expect to be fired in the next 30, 60, 90 days?
          Should I expect to be promoted in the next 30, 60, 90 days?

          I have not had to fire of folks in my business career but I have told a few to pack their bags in this manner.

          My comments are also intended for consumption for slightly larger companies — perhaps 250+ employees. They area also not intended to suggest a time will never come when nobody needs to be fired based on the bottom 5%.

          I want to identify the bottom 5% and evaluate them discretely. Perhaps that examination reveals everyone is just fine.


          • Oh, I have told people in a meeting……Your attitude???? You can put that in a box with the rest of your shit and leave right now.

            Understand. I have had people tell me why they think I am the stupidest M’fer in the world with reason. No issue. I have had people tell me that I had no clue and here is why. No issue.

            But not be a team player and just give tons of attitude. Yup.

            Screw up something I say don’t screw up, you are gone before the Christmas Party and your wife comes in and gives me a personalized blanket for my baby she was going to give me the next day? Yup.

            Play politics and try and foment office gossip?? Yup.

            If you give somebody one minute after you know they are not working out you’ve given them a minute to screw you.

            I have fired many people. Not had them “not work out”, Not “asked them to leave” Fire them which is what I did.

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