How To Fire Someone Part 2: If You Can’t Live Without The Person

Is there someone on your team that you absolutely, positively, cannot live without?  Someone who is so good at what they do that you’re willing to tolerate any kind of behavior because you so fear what would happen if he or she weren’t around to do their magic?  If so, here’s what you do.

You fire them.

That’s right.  You take your “the world will end if we don’t have this person” and you show them the door.  If you don’t, you’re a hostage.

My friend Bob Johnson at The Pinnacle Corporation tells a great story about a leadership team meeting he attended as a junior executive with a large department store chain.  The CEO of the company sat at the head of a long table surrounded by the entire executive team.  The junior leaders sat in chairs along the wall.

At some point in the meeting the group discussed a decidedly bad outcome generated by an employee let’s call Al.  The issue was serious enough that the CEO asked whether Al was the right person for the job.

“We can’t possibly live without Al,” his manager quickly explained.  “No one knows what he knows or can do what he does.”

The CEO thought for a moment, then asked his assistant to go find Al and bring him to the meeting.  When Al walked in conference room the CEO stood, shook his hand with a smile, thanked him for his service to the company and told him that he was fired, effective immediately.

While a dazed Al walked out the door, most of the executive team sat stunned.  The CEO returned to his seat, looked Al’s former manager in the eye and asked him “so now what are you going to do?”

The story illustrates that no one on your team should be bullet-proof…if they are, then they are ultimately above accountability and incapable of being managed.  When the CEO fired Al he made it crystal clear to his entire team that bad results could never be explained away by being blamed on a bullet-proof employee.  At that moment every manager understood that it was their job to get the right results from their people, or to find different people.

Do you have an Al on your team?



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