MGW #24 - How To Fire People


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MGW #24 -  How To Fire People

Welcome back to the newly relaunched Mighty Good Work with your hosts Aaron Schmookler, Co-founder and Trainer of The Yes Works and Kristin Adams, Co-director of Startup Grind and first time founder of ALL2.  Last episode we discussed shifting both the thought process surrounding, dialogue about and facilitation of people quitting their jobs and this episode we are focused on the other side of that equation - how to fire people compassionately.  

While one might think that goes without saying, you’d be surprised what still occurs in the workplace on the regular.  As a podcast dedicated to leaders and aspiring leaders who insist that work should be good, even in the toughest of circumstances, we’d argue that a refresher course is in order.

There's a common saying in the startup world the one great hire and the one great fire.  Both are inevitable milestones – rites of passage in one’s career, if you will – so knowing what you should and should not do is pretty key. 

Firing DOs:

  • Healthy company cultures champion continuous performance improvement
    • PIPs (Performance Improvement Plans) used solely as a means to document and justify dismissal are not typically effective in managing an under-performing individual back to successful contributors 
    • Timely communication, immediate feedback, resetting clear expectations and outlining consequences in the moment are key; summarize and document for the benefit of both parties to follow through
    • Open and encourage dialogue that helps get to the root cause of the performance issue (i.e. not having access to the right tools, inefficient processes, unrealistic expectations, improper staffing, lack of skills or interest, personal issues or life events, etc.) – some may be overcome, others not but determining that together can facilitate a smooth/mutual exit 
    • Individuals being fired for cause should know well in advance of the actual termination because of the open and frank discussion leading up it
  • Pre-plan and coordinate the timing of both the internal and external communication/messaging
    • Put it in writing and practice what you are going to say to the individual (i.e. don’t wing it/ad lib)
    • Cut to the chase – no need for a long preamble; start with the statement and acknowledge the difficulty of the situation (NOT how hard this is for you)
    • De-personalize the situation.  Keep the focus on the big picture and if you do say something off-script, stop (apologize if warranted) and come back to topic 
    • Be authentic; if it makes sense to acknowledge their positive contributions, say they will be missed, etc. – do it
    • Explain what happens next
  • Keep it conversational 
    • Let them speak, ask questions – stick to your speaking points, do not argue the details/circumstances leading up to, etc.
    • Discuss what they are looking for in their next job, provide constructive direction advice if asked
  • Be their advocate to the extent it makes sense
    • Most terminations are rooted in some kind of disconnect (skills, pace, life circumstances, etc.).  This does not make them a bad employee – just the wrong fit
  • Be generous when possible 
    • Severance, extension of benefits, etc.
    • Ensure they get home (or to their preferred destination) safely (pay for car service, call friend or family to pick up, etc.)

Firing DON’Ts:

  • DON'T fire on a Friday or the end of the day, ideally early in the week around lunch hour
    • Gives the individual the weekend to feel miserable, stew, get angry without recourse (i.e. puts them in a holding pattern until the following workweek)
    • Gives time for the rumor mill to churn whereas a firing followed by a full work week provides the ability to ask questions and return/adjust to the new routine
  • Take security precautions but DON’T perp walk if not necessary
    • Stakes are higher than letting one person go; the performance of remaining employees often suffers if the message/statement being made is one of fear and/or reprisal
    • Preserve the individual’s dignity; embarrassment breeds resentment & fuels gossip
    • Give the individual a choice about when/how they want to collect personal effects, the option to do so without an audience
    • Give the individual an option to say goodbye
  • DON’T hide out after you’ve fired someone 
    • Take time to compose yourself if needed but be present, be visible, engage others – show you CARE
    • Make yourself available for questions, concerns – allowing folks to process/vent will prevent other negative outcomes
  • DON’T call a company meeting for the sole purpose of announcing the departure
  • DON’T burn bridges, especially in today’s connected world

While today’s topic doesn’t seem to align with workplace happiness, the fact is that as tough as it might be in the moment, the outcomes are usually quite positive.  When handled correctly and with compassion, firing an individual can lead to happier people – both the employees who remain with the company and those who left in their new 

Folks, thank you so much for your time and attention. If you have questions, want to argue the merit of anything we’ve proposed today, have other ideas to contribute, etc. – we are happy to engage as long as the gloves don't come off. ☺ 

Kristin Adams: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kristinadams/

Aaron Schmookler: https://www.linkedin.com/in/schmookler/

This has been Mighty Good Work and you are mighty good folks for joining us. Thanks for listening.

 
 

MGW #23 - How to Retain Talent


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MGW #23 - How to Retain Talent

Welcome to the Mighty Good Work relaunch. The focus hasn’t changed – this is still a podcast for people who want to make work a place worthy of the time we dedicate to it and for leaders and aspiring leaders who are committed to inspiring the same.  We’ve tweaked the format, including a permanent new co-host, in the hopes of adding diversity of viewpoints, experience and topics for the benefit of our listeners.  We are excited to share version 2.0 with you and on that note, let’s get started!

In this episode we focus on shifting both the thought process surrounding, dialogue about and facilitation of people quitting their jobs. With tenure averaging 18-24 months (and dropping), if you're thinking about why and how people leave their jobs in the right way, you have an opportunity to actually do something to retain your best and brightest longer.

Conventional wisdom is that people leave their jobs – having outgrown the role.  The latest data would tell you that people leave people, more specifically, their managers.  We contend that this is not an either/or situation, but rather people leave “bad experiences” and as such leaders must address the issue more holistically.

  • If you think about a workplace version of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, successful leaders fulfill those needs by creating a sense of community, providing opportunity for development and growth and communicating the value of their employees’ contributions.
  • Recognition, appreciation and critical feedback are key to how people interpret their experience (i.e. positive or negative), growth (i.e. improvement or stagnation of work product/process) and contribution (i.e. perceived importance of), making all three critical parts of the feedback loop.
  • An oft cited reason for leaving is a lack of meaningfulness/purpose in their work.  Find ways to tangibly connect individual contributions to outcomes.
  • Strong leaders think big picture and balance methodology with results.  Do physical butts in seats matter if objectives are being met?  When is it ok to make process allowances if outcomes are achieved?  Conversely, when is it not?  
  • We all have fear based reactions at times but how we address those slips matter.  A private apology may not be sufficient, as public acknowledgment goes a long way towards demonstrating a commitment to the company’s mission and values.
  • Promotions to management positions should not be made lightly.  Tenure and the ability to perform hard skills consistently at an individual contributor level are not sufficient.  Introducing an unskilled/unsupported manager into your ecosystem can quickly lead to employee unhappiness and subsequent turnover. 
  • Contrary to conventional wisdom, people do not necessarily have to be good at specific hard skills – be it writing code, accounting or creating content – to be leaders.  Recognize the ability to communicate vision and strategy and give those folks opportunities to lead/influence. 
  • Don’t be so quick to dismiss the first-alerters – those you might chalk up to being hyper-sensitive or whiners.  They often can signal early warning signs of problems that if addressed at that point won’t manifest as bigger issues.
  • Strong leaders do not think in terms of a static employment contract, but rather on that allows for change over time.  As employees’ lives evolve, what they need from work to support those changes also evolves.  If the role or the company’s needs do not allow for that, then understanding those limitations and being prepared to gracefully facilitate that transition is key.
  • Strive for better than average tenue.  Nobody goes into a relationship with a predetermined end date in mind. You wouldn’t accept average product/service quality, sales results, etc. so investing in the things that keep your people engaged longer is just good business.  Find ways to measure and improve.

How you handle attrition factors into retention, as this communicates/models how others can expect to be treated.  While it may seem counterintuitive, a common recurring theme revolves around the exit.   

  • Depersonalize the situation.  Whether viewed as good or bad attrition, neither should it be viewed as an act of betrayal nor an opportunity to malign.  Your ability to facilitate genuine, amicable separations and relay that to your staff will strongly factor into others’ decisions to stay or go.  
  • Exit interviews – the ability to give someone a chance to be heard – are important.  Better to get the information first-hand and be able to address it head-on rather than via social media or open forums (Blind, Glassdoor, etc.). 
  • Strong leaders should view every employee exit as a way to create an ambassador of goodwill.  You never know where paths will intersect, whether as a boomerang employee, advocate, customer, or partner.  The ability to reengage with someone years later is a good litmus test of a successful exit.  
 
 

MGW #22 - Integrity is the keystone value

Here are some action items taken from the episode to help you put your company’s core values to work:

Step 1: To get your company values off the wall, and actually working in your organization from top to bottom, make sure INTEGRITY tops the list.

Without integrity, your other values are just suggestions.

Step 2: Define integrity. Don’t take for granted that everyone knows what it means.

Many companies define integrity as, “do the right thing.”

The problem with that is… people can and do argue all day about what the right thing is.

A more practical definition for integrity is Consistency. Consistency of thought word and action. You, your company, me? We have integrity to the degree that our actions are consistent with what we say, is consistent with what we think.

Step 3: Get everyone’s explicite buy-in. If you don’t have a shared commitment to integrity on your team, then every other value will collapse when it becomes inconvenient enough.

So, Integrity provides structural support for everything you do as a team. Including the primary driver of performance, growth, and fulfillment? A tool that’s difficult to wield: FEEDBACK

The shared commitment to integrity helps you as a leader to overcome 4 obstacles to effective feedback.

1st, the THRESHOLD question: A question I hear from leaders often is, at what point do I have to give feedback? How incongruent, how “bad” does behavior have to be before I have to give feedback?

My answer? Use your shared commitment to integrity to rethink the question. Integrity is all or nothing. You’re shooting for 100%, so every behavior you see either supports your values and goals, or not. So every behavior is an opportunity for kudos or correction. Thank you. That’s the ticket. Or, hey, we’re committed to consistency — and that behavior is inconsistent.

There is no threshold.

2nd, its corollary, the permission objection: Clients tell me, I give feedback, and my team acts put upon. They think I’m patronizing them or they think I’m picking on them. PArt of a shared commitment to integrity is the idea that we’re going to talk about the behaviors we see with one another as a team. “Maybe you already know what I’m about to tell you. In being obvious about what I’m seeing, I’m supporting your commitment to integrity. THis is the expectation we have of each other, and permission is granted in advance when getting everyone on board with integrity.

3rd, the Respect Hurdle: The VP I mentioned earlier had a respect problem. Her team didn’t respect her because she asked for above and beyond from them, but created policies that prohibited them from going above and beyond for the customer. They felt demoralized, and thought she was a hypocrite. As she committed to integrity — and as the company came into consistency as well — the team’s respect for her and the company grew. They became less resentful and even appreciative of feedback.

4th, the self-worth challenge: Acting with integrity, growing ever greater integrity is a matter of aspiration. Inconsistency on occasion is a part of the human condition. And our sense of self worth is tied to it. The more we practice integrity, the greater our sense of self and self worth. The greater our sense of self, the more in touch we are with our responses to one another. We’re more confident both in giving and in receiving feedback with equanimity and balance.

So, growing integrity is also growing feedback capacity — as a giver and as a receivier.

For more on how to give and receive feedback effectively, check out my podcast conversation with Elaine Lin Hering on Episode 16 of the Mighty Good Work Podcast.

Thanks for your efforts to make work good. Together we can insure that people are good for work, and work is good for people.

If you’re ready for High-Performance Accountability Culture in your company, let’s discuss your training goals. Book a call today at TheYesWorks.com.

Check out this episode!


How to Voice Concerns Without Being a Jerk

The Circumstance and The Problem

New ideas represent change. And change implies risk. Risk brings fear. So…

Very often, when one person in the office proposes change, someone else — out of fear — responds with some form of “no.” And, “no” is a communication inhibitor. No takes many forms.

  • That’s a good idea, but it won’t work.
  • We’ve always done it this way.
  • You don’t understand.
  • We tried that once and it didn’t work.
  • That’s not my job.

We’ve all said these things… and we’ve all been on the receiving end. It feels like talking to a brick wall, or getting a flat tire. It starts an argument, or ends all conversation, or leads to someone pulling rank. And pulling rank is a communication inhibitor.

The Alternative

To keep the discussion rolling try these conversation starting alternatives.

You can say:

  • Here’s a challenge we’d need to address.
  • To make that work, we’d need X.
  • Have you considered Y?
  • I’d offer this tweak for that reason.

Taking this open and supportive tack is a communication that you’re on the same team, even if you have reservations.

How to Practice This

There’s a three part principle at work here.

  1. Leave open the possibility the idea could work. Your perspective may have led you to believe it won’t. You can acknowledge that your perspective — like every person’s perspective — is limited. Therefore solutions may exist that you can’t see.
  2. Identify potential problems. Your perspective — including your objection — is valuable. You can and should identify and point out potential problems.
  3. If you can, identify what it would take to make it work. Instead of shooting the idea down, name the problems that would need to be resolved in order to make the idea work.

By following these three guidelines, you become a collaborator instead of a nay-sayer.


MGW #21 - “Anxiety Free Workplace” with Bud Torcom

GUEST: Bud Torcom

https://mazamamedia.com/

https://www.linkedin.com/in/budtorcom/

Twitter: @BudTorcom

 

HIGHLIGHTS FROM OUR CONVERSATION:

 

Bud Torcom’s Big Hairy Audacious Goal is an anxiety free workplace.

 

I’ve wanted to treat people the way I want to be treated and work in the kind of workplace I’d want to be working in.

 

As a digital marketing company, being in the office for normal business hours isn’t necessary.

 

We’re on a constant, steady drip of the stress hormone, cortisol. OUr bodies did not evolve for a constant cortisol drip. Anxiety is making us sick.

 

Bud’s not sure an anxiety free workplace is possible. Even so, he’s on a mission to try? to see if it’s possible.

 

The people of Mazama Media are the face of the company — and the interface of the customers. Happy team members create happy clients.

 

Human Prairie dog — When each member of the team looks out for the interests of the others, then all individuals feel they can afford to look out for collective interests.

 

“It’s my responsibility [to take on the stress].”

 

The message to the team? “The thing that just happened is not going to mean you don’t eat tonight.” You’re not going to lose your job. We’re going to learn from the way things went down.

 

We’re anticipating dips on the path of growth. Setting expectations of inevitable setbacks helps to smooth out the experience people have of the ups and downs of any business.

 

“Blame the process, not the person.”

Where did the problem hit? What can we learn about our processes and procedures from each setback, failure, or bump in the road.

People want to have purpose, meaning, and fulfillment.

 

Checklists help insure success. Set people up for success.

 

When you work together as a team, and with the support of technology, much fewer errors are missed and less slips through the cracks. Both team redundancy and technology backup makes for effective performance.


Processes and systems get refined over time. Learn from the data and refine as you go.

 

The message to the team, “These processes and checklists are here to support you.”

 

Limit the number of things on your list of to dos. A huge list is a stresser. Focus on the few that will have the greatest impact.

 

Your team is going to be right about their priorities 90% of the time. Go with their gut.

 

The presence of ping-pong and other games in the modern workplace does have a work relevant role to play — to give the mind a break during which breakthrough can happen.

 

Bud fires paying clients when they treat his team in ways that he doesn’t want people to be treated.

 

Prospects who will create anxiety in the organization are disqualified as clients.

 

Where are the places to relieve stress and anxiety from the whole system — the team, leadership, and clients. Stress is cumulative and contagious.

 

Prevent burnout by defining limits. Setting limits can enhance performance because results will have to come from effective behaviors over hustle.

 

Delegation is a leader’s force magnifier.

 

Richard Branson says that your team comes first, not clients. This is because people who know that someone’s got their back are freed up to care for the clients.

 

Enough high-level thinking. Here are seven specific actions you can take to reduce anxiety in your organization.

 

  1. Blame the process, not the person.
  2. Build a got your back culture.
  3. You can get people to do more through praise than through condemning. So praise people.
  4. Thank people frequently.
  5. Give people the ability to create. Give them agency to affect the work they do and the way they do it.
  6. Put relationships first. “It’s never about the thing. It’s always about the relationship.” Build relationships that will deliver results.
  7. Let the people go surfing.

 

________________

 

Your host on Mighty Good Work is Aaron Schmookler.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/schmookler/

 

And, we’re The Yes Works — Helping to make work good for people, and make people good for work.

 

www.TheYesWorks.com

 

Resources mentioned in today’s show:

 

Simon Sinek’s book, Leaders Eat Last

And his website: https://startwithwhy.com/

Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia

Mazama Media’s youtube channel

Five Cent Thank Yous

Check out this episode!


The Audacity to Thrive.

Problem is, most business training is ineffective, boring, powerpoint lecturing yak-yak that accomplishes nothing.  It espouses systems or techniques designed to help ensure success.  And the systems work.  There’s nothing wrong with the systems they teach.  But there’s nothing wrong with the systems that are already in place either.  Informational training about systems and best practices is painting a house on fire if the mindset and habits aren’t addressed.  It does nothing to close the gap between what we know we should do and what we actually do, because the knowing-doing gap isn’t an information problem.  It’s a person problem.  

There are serious problems that many people in business simply ignore.  It’s not that they don’t notice or don’t care about the problems.  Rather, they think these problems can’t be solved.

  • Teams that add up to less than the sum of their parts
  • Poor communication
  • Tactlessness
  • Conflict
  • Resistance to change
  • Incremental and slow growth
  • Inattention
  • Sloppiness
  • Good enough to get by
  • Lack of accountability
  • Disengagement
  • Sales people who don’t perform

These problems stifle profits and are rooted in fear:

  • Fear of failure
  • Fear of loss
  • Fear of ridicule
  • Fear of rejection
  • Fear of embarrassment

And there’s nothing we can do about that, right? You’ve either got audacity or you don’t.  You’ve either got leadership or you don’t.  You’ve either got creativity or you don’t.  You’ve either got self-awareness, accountability, and responsibility, or you don’t. Conventional thinking is, these problems cannot be solved. That’s just the way it is with people. Soft skills can’t be trained.

Well, what if I told you that these skills are trainable.  What If I told you that you can change the dynamics on your team?  What if I told you that you can elevate the plane on which your people work together? What if I told you that your team has genius in it just waiting for permission to act?  Imagine the transformations in performance, innovation, and productivity with fear out of the way.  The results would astound you.

Improv can change your mind.  Without losing your team’s identity, without asking your people to lose theirs, you can create habits of audacity.

The Yes Works helps businesses solve problems they think are unsolvable.  We bring the tools and techniques of Adeptability to bear on overlooked business problems, getting business results you can take to the bank. Using tools and techniques drawn from improvisation, modern neuroscience and learning theory, and current leadership data, we train people to recognize fear and set it aside. We’re boosting people power in organizations large and small.

Improv fosters habits that bring forward the best of each of us in every situation.  How? Neuroscience says practice makes permanent because it builds lasting structures in the brain.  Improv is practice.

Practice constructive, innovative association.  Practice confidence and collaboration.  Practice trust.

Improv is the competitive advantage you’ve been looking for.  It’s a person solution.  Improv skills, imparted through skillful facilitation, installs in companies the audacity to thrive.