Have you ever had to say those two words before? It’s a necessary evil of management…but is it?
Several years ago, we had a team member, really nice gal, I’ll call her Becky for the sake of anonymity. Becky worked in our design department. Good personality, a quiet worker, showed up ‘mostly on time’ (here’s where the problem begins…you’ll see a pattern), great eye for design, and many years in the industry with a lot of design experience. Becky had a keen eye for photography as a side hobby, so she jumped right in when we said we were thinking of updating our website and adding photo’s of team members and departments to the website, we had only done professional shots once previously and she had an eye for capturing people like I hadn’t seen, a true gift.
However, (Yes, you saw that however coming) she had a very difficult time following instructions, whether client generated requests or repeat orders. She wanted to add her own flare on to everything. She consistently did things her own way and absolutely ignored two key elements necessary in the industry we were in; instructions and timelines. Not only could she not follow the clock to get to work on time, she couldn’t follow deadlines. Not a single instruction or timeline was met or followed on a regular basis.
After numerous discussions, systems of organization and conversation, I came to realize it was not going to work long-term. Yes, I did the Good to Great analyzation, right person, wrong seat? No, she was not the right team member no matter what seat she sat in on the bus or her gifts of contribution. Isn’t coming to that conclusion though so hard? There is a great responsibility in management and if you are reading this, you probably already understand it. People that work for you, have mortgages or rent to pay, children to take care of, parents that may need their help, so just saying “You’re Fired” is not as easy as spewing out your mouth those two words IF you care about humans. Especially, if you see your job as more than a manager, you see yourself as a coach. And if you don’t, on a side note, you shouldn’t be given the responsibility of managing! The coaching position often spills over from job to life coach and confidant, so firing someone is not as easy as “You didn’t do what we asked, couldn’t follow the pathway, no matter how many warnings you’ve had, you’re fired” Managers/Coaches worth their weight in gold, agonize over the decision, even when they’ve done everything they could.
Unless, and this doesn’t make it easy, it makes it palatable…you know you’ve coached, you’ve managed, you’ve analyzed right person, right seat and you can come to grips with, maybe it’s not firing them but releasing them to their future. Because what good managers also know is that their primary responsibility that works with, not against the humanity side, it to the overall health and well being of the company and when one person’s actions or lack thereof, begin to encroach and negatively affect that, you must make a choice. The time leading up to the decision, the actual releasing them and the hours afterward are referred to as ’36 Hours of Pain’ in the book Traction by Gino Wickman.
Releasing team members to their future is their choice, ultimately. If they are not able to do what is needed to be a productive part of the team then they are meant to be on someone else’s team. Maybe they are even meant to be on their own. That’s what happened with Becky. I brought her into my office, I released her with two weeks notice and I said to her, “You are meant for photography, you have a gift and sitting in our office designing with constraints is not what you were meant to do.” She was livid! May have been the second most angry person to ever walk out of my office (the first, that was a doozy and a story for another time). She didn’t accept my “releasing her to do what she was meant to do” and she grabbed her things and stormed out! She did not come back for the two weeks and I mailed her final check to her. Let’s just say, that hadn’t gone how I had planned it in my head. How could she not be grateful, I was giving her the opportunity to grow!? I really thought she was going to thank me, for encouraging her to do what she was so gifted at and on top of that, she would be so grateful for my gracious compliment of her photography, right!?!? Not so much, none of it!
Fast forward 6 months and we had a new client that needed some headshots and team photo’s done. I had seen Becky on LinkedIn advertising her photography and she was now doing it full time! I referred the client to her, the client loved her work and she was hired on the spot. I’d love to say that she came back to me and thanked me greatly for releasing her to her future and what she was meant to do, but no, she didn’t. That doesn’t really matter though because I know. I know that I did what was right for my company, my whole team, my clients and ultimately, Becky.
So is it time to let go? If you are the kind of manager that I think you probably are, if you’re reading this, the words “You’re Fired” don’t roll easily off your tongue. But “Letting You Go into your future” or “Releasing You into your future” are still simple words that ease more truth into what you are really doing. Do you have a team member that you are actually holding back from their own future because you don’t have the courage to look at it that way? You don’t have the courage to wade through the 36 hours of pain? The cost to your company, your team and this team member is greater than you know…until you know.
P.S…Photo credit above, one of my favorite pictures of my husband and I, goes to Becky!