Inspired by people I talk with during SaunaGrow meetings and followed by personal experience of how hard it is to let people go, I’ve decided to share with you thoughts on Managing People Out.
Some time ago, I had a chance to spend a few days with Jason & Michael on a leadership workshop in New York. That’s where I first came across the F.U.E.L. way of providing feedback and solving tough situations in a Team. While I’ve focused on F.U.E.L. in another article, during the course of this workshop we came across a very interesting process called “Managing People Out”. F.U.E.L. and Managing People Out overlap on many levels, that mentioning the two together is not a coincidence.
It’s now two years after this workshop and having seen both the “Managing People Out” done quite a few times and having practised this approach myself, I now know for sure it’s valuable and I want to pass it forward. Here it goes.
In every growing organisation there is strong pressure both on growth and on utilising all the company’s resources to its best. Resources are often used for getting & keeping the best people on board. Having said that, it often happens that someone hired in January may no longer be best for the role in December. It’s not a bad hire, and it doesn’t always mean that person got worse. For super-fast growing organizations it may simply be a sign of a situation that the role has outgrown the specific person. Example: HR Manager of a 100 people organisation may have the same title, but a totally different role as a HR Manager in a 300 people company.
The result of that change of expectations, where ability and skills do not follow needs, is often devastating for the individual, the Team and the company as a whole. Low performers are dragging a company down and demotivate the rest of the Team. As much as it’s never too early to let someone go, it’s a very natural thing that this process is unpleasant and is often delayed. Why is it so? There are a number of reasons. Starting from a fear of changing something, risking the breaking of the established Team’s spirit, disrupting the company’s operations and last but not least: people are generally good, and no one likes hurting people.
That, however, is often a wrong perception of the reality. By allowing a low performer to stay with the Team we’re hurting both the Team and the individual more than by letting them go. I am far away from the old-style corporate approach urging to always fire 10% of the least performing staff, as this is damaging for people’s motivation, dignity and engages them in a rat race. Yet in many situations more empathetic managers are too soft when it comes to evaluating the work of others and providing negative feedback on time. I’ve been there myself and have made the mistake of letting people go too late, without a proper feedback process in place. I hope I am wiser now and that you’ll learn from my mistakes.
As much as letting people go is almost always hard, with the approach shown by Jason Gore in the Managing People Out process, it’s much more healthy and… humane. In a nutshell, here are the steps you should follow:
- Give feedback. When you’re not satisfied with someone’s performance, voice it. When doing this remember that their success is your priority and goal. People do change, allow them to do that soon enough. And assume positive intentions & use the F.U.E.L. method or any other that helps you in getting feedback across in an organized and effective way.
- Quite often the giving of feedback helps to improve things on its own, but when it doesn’t you go a step further. You acknowledge the past, name the elephant in the room, that the changes are not seen or not going fast enough. It’s important here to listen as much as give feedback. It’s a two-way communication. This is a great moment to explore options on how to make it work better. Don’t push for solutions, explore them as you understand the other person’s world better.
- Make clear commitments. What task, goal, thing needs to happen, and by when, in order to see the needed improvement at the desired level. Commitments should be written down, often revisited and checked. This process may take long weeks if not months. Checking on the process is vital, otherwise you’re wasting time and resources.
- Things can go great, the person will improve, understand the role better, become more motivated than ever. But on the opposite side, it can also lead to a broader understanding of why this will not work. That’s where you clearly state that you have both tried this & that and it didn’t work out. Also, at this moment, don’t push for your solutions. Try to come to joint conclusions. Pausing during this conversation and allowing your employee to actually speak may not be easy, but powerful.
- Often a result of such a process (if not getting better) may be that a person will decide to leave your organisation even without you needing to fire them. It’s better that way, for the individual, the Team and the company.
It’s worth noticing that the described approach should not be used when you need to reduce your cash burn rapidly. This is an ongoing process that needs to be executed constantly to maintain a highly performing Team.
Also note that this process only works if you can assume positive intent and truly believe that there is a chance of serious improvement. If deep inside you don’t believe in it, you’re likely to lose a lot of your time. The sooner you kickstart this process, the better for the individual, you and the Team.
It all might sound quite obvious, but hopefully, having read this article and heard the short podcast from Jason, you’ll begin to do this intentionally and not just intuitively.
Be good, value your Team, help everyone on the Team to grow. Inside or outside of your organization. It’s your duty as a leader and a good manager.
Founder of SaunaGrow.com and exCEO of AirHelp Poland