As an executive coach for the last eight years, I’ve had some phenomenal clients put on a short list of “leaders to discard” even though they shouldn’t have been. Although I’ve been assured that coaching is not being used as a last resort, I sometimes find out differently later. Often what it comes down to is that their manager is not willing to wait for the time it takes my client to make some changes to their leadership.
Some of these clients got lucky and found positions in different parts of the same company before the firing squad came. In one notable situation, my client’s manager was fired while my client was on a path to being fired by that same manager. His new manager considered my client a great asset to the organization and has every intention of keeping him on.
What this tells me is that sometimes leaders make the wrong decisions about their people.
The effect of firing someone can be devastating – to you, your team, your company (and certainly to the person being fired). Firing someone should only occur following careful reflection and a confidence that it is the final resort.
Before you fire that person, I have some questions for you to consider:
What possibility exists in this person? You may be focused on all of the negative attributes in this person. Are you sure there isn’t a strength there that could be used in your organization (or elsewhere in your company?).
What is your role in the situation? Have you done all that is possible to assure success? What have you done or not done to coach this person through the situation? Think hard. If this is a personality conflict (maybe you just don’t like this person), that isn’t enough reason to fire them.
Have you asked what this person needs to be successful? Amazingly, this simple question is often neglected in manager-employee relations. Asking the question may be the key to keeping a good leader.
Have you truly listened to their point of view? This is the kind of listening where you turn off your inner judge. You must deeply listen for understanding and value. There may be a spark of truth in their side of things.
Have you considered other assistance? This might mean you need to contact Human Resources or your EAP. It also might mean that an internal or external coach can salvage the situation, but don’t go this route unless you get to a point of believing that there is hope in the situation.
I know that there are legitimate times when it makes sense to let someone go. I’m simply advocating for restraint and covering all the bases before you do so.