Being fired from a job is one of the most traumatic events a person can experience in life. It’s right up there with the death of a loved one or divorce.
When a person is fired from their job the usual thought process says it’s the person’s own responsibility. That is frequently true, more or less.
I say more or less because often there is another person who shares some of the responsibility for the failure of that employee. That person is their boss.
Now if you’re a boss with the mindset of a manager you’re saying that it’s never your fault. You’re saying that you hired an adult and that they are responsible for their performance. They needed to “step up” and get the job done. You say they should have tried harder, worked longer, learned more or “figured it out.” I can’t disagree with any of that.
But if you’re a boss with the mindset of a leader before you say anything about your employee you’re saying YOU should have “stepped up” and led them more effectively. You’re saying YOU should have tried harder, worked longer, learned more about them or figured out what it would have taken to motivate them to perform at a higher level.
If you’re a boss with the mindset of a leader you understand that there are really only two possible reasons your employee failed to perform. You either hired a person with the wrong skill set for the job or you failed to provide them with the tools and motivation they needed to succeed.
Either way, if you have the audacity to label yourself a leader then YOU must accept at least part of the responsibility for the failure of your employee. If it gets to the point of termination then it’s a gigantic failure. The person who was terminated faces tremendous trauma in their life and you as a leader played a part in making that happen.
If the person you terminated was surprised by the termination then the trauma is greater still. If you’re surprised that they were surprised then your failure is even more than gigantic.
Those “surprise” firings most often happen because a reality gap exists between what the boss wants and what the employee has convinced themselves they are delivering. That’s a reality gap and that gap can only be filled through coaching.
And here’s the thing, bosses with a managerial mindset seldom coach, they tell. Bosses with a leadership mindset seldom tell, they coach and they frequently coach by showing. Bosses with a leadership mindset have no need or time to boss, they are focused on leading. They are focused on developing those they lead. They celebrate the success of their people and share in the pain of any failure they may have.
They help create that success and avoid the pain with near constant communication. Most often that communication comes in the form of providing a model of successful behavior but sometimes they even use words.
Employees who are led instead of bossed are never in doubt as to what is expected of them. They are rarely fired but when they are they are never surprised.
Do your people know exactly what is expected of them? If not then you may be a boss but you’re most likely not a leader.
4 thoughts on “Surprise, You’re Fired!”
Great insight, Steve! Leaders must provide continual coaching & feedback with continuous improvement as the goal. Termination should only be considered once every avenue for improvement has been exhausted. Any leader worth their weight never uses termination as a means to correct a weak link, and feels responsible if termination is the only option. Thanks for sharing this!
Thanks Bryan, I think the key word in your comment is CONTINUOUS. Coaching isn’t a sometime thing and it certainly isn’t a one and done thing. Yet many people in leadership positions claim to “not have time to coach.” What they are really saying is that they don’t have time to lead.