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Now or Later? Timing It Right When Recruiting and Terminating

Updated: May 9

What is your level of agreement with the adage, “hire slow, fire fast”?

Answering this question is one thing, but applying its principles can be entirely different. Additionally, the definitions of slow and fast can be somewhat subject and altered situationally. Nonetheless, it does provide a framework for some serious consideration.

Hire Slow

We’ve been there. A gap in our team because of a termination, resignation or organizational changes. We lose sleep and get a bit anxious over how, when and who will fill the role. We’re tempted to move quickly, as to not waste any time for the void to exist any longer than needed.

And this is exactly why we need to breathe, reflect and approach this temporary situation with an appropriate response and not a reaction. This is one of those vital strategic decisions in your business that calls for you to proceed with measured intention and purpose.

Here's a place to start…don’t be tempted to simply dust off the old job description and apply a rinse and repeat method of posting for a new candidate. Instead, take the time to review and revise. Consider your specific needs now for this role. What improvements will help deliver more meaningful results to your organization? What progress has occurred since the last time this role was posted and filled? Apply this additional information to best suit your needs and those of your team. Simply stated, make adjustments now, before your next hire, to establish better alignment for you, your business and your candidate.

Another point to consider is the weight you place on a candidate’s resume and skillset at the potential expense of finding a fit to your culture and values. Don’t get me wrong. I believe both factors are needed for long-term success. But I would argue the latter should outweigh the former. We discussed why values are important for any size organization in a previous article. Reference it here for a refresher, and to better understand why this matters for your small business and your candidate. Core values are extremely useful and powerful, and can serve as a key point of reference when making meaningful strategic decisions, such as hiring.

Fire Fast

Here again, intention and purpose need to be at the foundation of this decision. But it does not mean delay or procrastinate. This can take some courage. Courage to engage the team member who is no longer a fit. And courage to admit that a mistake was made.

Terminating someone is rarely an easy decision, and most often is not a welcomed activity for any leader to do. But circumstances do arise when this is best for both the organization and the individual. And you must keep moving forward…with minimal delay.

Two common challenges that may cause you to delay include, fearing how the work will continue to be completed, and underestimating the ill effects an individual with poor behavior or subpar attitude can have on the entire organization. I’ll argue that these two challenges may actually be related and, metaphorically, the opposite sides of the same coin.

Consider for a moment your fear of the work not getting completed. Pause here and think it through. Has the work actually been getting done to your standards? In other words, has performance output been a C or C- when an expectation of an A is the standard? Place some serious weight on this when considering keeping a person for a longer period of time than they deserve. Your company, your customers, and your team are all impacted by sub-standard performance by any one individual.

Similar to hiring for skillset like we discussed earlier, it’s an important line item for discussion here as well. Oftentimes decisions to let someone go is less about the work output and more about their attitude or behavior. If attempts have honestly been made to help this individual develop and hone their skills to no avail, is it something more? Behavior and attitude are tough for someone on the other side of things to change in others. Perhaps that subpar work is rooted in a poor attitude or lack of interest to improve; a tough scenario to “teach” out of.

Take a look at both sides of this coin and consider the potential diminished fairness to others at the expense of trying to be fair to one.

Examine your hiring and firing processes. Understanding that each case has its own circumstances, embracing the philosophy of hire slow, fire fast may help provide some guiderails around your approach to these two vitally important leadership responsibilities.

Small business is a dynamic environment, and oftentimes we go with our gut or intuition. Adding a bit of balance with a framework, such as the one we discussed here, may just prove to be the right mix.


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