The Simple Rule You Should Adopt Before Firing an Employee

Boss firing a male subordinate

If you have chosen a position that comes with the responsibility of leading people, you have wrestled with this question, “Is this person the right fit?” There are times when that examination is silent in your mind, or it’s a full-fledged conversation with someone else for counsel.  

Unfortunately, the hard decisions around talent management are just part of the territory of leadership. Anyone involved in the talent management life cycle knows the three essential components; hiring, retaining and firing. 

Many phenomenal leaders have adopted the talent mantra “hire slow, fire fast,” and for good reason. Getting the right people on the team is the most critical decision any leader makes.  

Getting the right people on the team is the most critical decision any leader makes

When teams have the right people, leading is not only easier, it’s more enjoyable. But even the best leaders who spend a substantial amount of time vetting potential candidates for skill and culture fit make mistakes.  

Other managers are hired or promoted into their role and they assume responsibility for team members they didn’t choose or hire. This means their first two to four weeks are heavily focused on identifying whether they have the right team on the bus.  

For any manager that finds themselves in one of these positions or has recently asked the question, “Is this person the right fit?” It’s time to adopt the “45 Day Rule.”  

The “45 Day Rule”

Time and feelings are funny things when paired together. In one moment, we can be sure of something, and just a few days later, we can feel the opposite way. Because of this, the “fire fast” mantra is a little too hasty for my liking.  

Instead, I coach leaders to leverage the “45 Day Rule.” Here is how it works. Once you question whether someone is the right fit or in the right role, you set a date on your calendar 45 business days in the future. Then, on or before that date, a decision is made about their future employment.

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This approach provides the timeline and freedom to coach them up or move them out. 

Within the “45 Day Rule,” commit to doing three key things:

1. Communicate the Truth 

I have written before, “all improvement starts with the truth.” When it comes to talent-related decisions, communicating the truth is no different. Talented professionals deserve the truth when it comes to their future.

Now, there are different ways to communicate the thought or belief that this person might not be in the proper role. But, regardless of what you say, it should always start with something like this: “I care about you as a person, which means I care about your performance.”

Opening up your conversation this way demonstrates that you are sharing the truth with them because you want them to be successful and are not judging them as a person but how they are performing.

2. Coach Them Daily

It’s far common for managers who have mentally made up their minds that someone isn’t an excellent fit to ignore them to help justify their upcoming decision. I can’t stand this approach because it’s the easy way out.  

There is no denying that fact some people won’t work out. However, we owe it to ourselves and to them to do what’s in our power to help them succeed. One of those things is coaching.  

The development of team members should always be a priority, and coaching them should be a daily habit. However, when a team member is within the “45 Day Rule”, turning up the coaching dial is required.  

The development of team members should always be a priority, and coaching them should be a daily habit. 

Seek out opportunities to help develop their skills and be conscious of asking great coaching questions instead of just giving them answers.  Learn to be an effective coach in less than 1 hour with the Coaching for Excellence Program.

3. Provide Quality Feedback

Coaching and feedback are different things trying to achieve a similar result and both are important during the “45 Day Rule.”

Here are some general differences between coaching and feedback:

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There is a simple and effective way that researchers call “Magical feedback” that I described in Building the Best.

The Exception to the Rule

With any rule, there is always an exception. If the person whom you would add to the “45 Day Rule” is; an energy vampire, hurts your culture, is a terrible personality fit, or has shown no desire to develop the skills required to do the job, there is no need to wait.  

The sooner you decide someone is a bad cultural fit, the less time and energy both parties waste.  

Closing

Deciding to retain someone or removing them to help them find a better fit someone where else isn’t easy. But you are in your role for a reason and that’s to make decisions like this. So have courage and use the “45 Day Rule” to help you make the best decision possible. 

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About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping executives and managers to lead their best. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

The Simple Way Leaders Get Feedback at the End of the Year

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Awareness, or more to the point, a lack of self-awareness, is a primary issue any Executive Coach focuses on to help a leader get better. When a person holds a position of power and authority without clear, candid information about how their actions or behaviors affect their teams, it’s a recipe for disaster. Unfortunately, this describes too many leaders.

In our preliminary research, most leaders believe they are self-aware. In actuality, only between 30%- 40% have proven they possess this skill. Moreover, many of the executives and managers we have studied over the last seven years have never even asked their team members for feedback about how they are leading. Their reasons varied from being overly confident, apathetic, or scared to hear the truth.

While asking your team for feedback can be a scary endeavor, research suggests those on the path to self-awareness are more confident, make better decisions, build better relationships, and communicate more effectively.  

Nadeem Saeed backed this up by saying, “Self-Awareness is the first chapter in the book of leadership.”

Why We Avoid The Truth

Whether it be our finances, the quality of our relationships, or the way we are currently leading, it’s just more comfortable to avoid the truth than confront it. Let’s face it, avoidance and denial have their short-term benefits — they feel better. Self-preservation and protection from real emotion or pain can disguise itself as the best path. But, things have a way of catching up to you. They say the truth will set you free, but they never said anything about it being painless. 

Leaders who avoid the truth move further away from being in a position of strength. 

The vast majority of leaders will only go to the point in which it gets uncomfortable, then they stop. However, growth and development are right around the corner when we find out the truth, and we get a little uncomfortable. Daniel Chidiac said some wise words, “Being self-aware is not the absence of mistakes, but the ability to learn and correct them.”

How to Get Unbiased Feedback 

As I wrote in Building the Best, a leader’s most important job is to elevate others.  It is nearly impossible to do this if you don’t know how your skills or behaviors impact other people. 

Thanks to Gallup’s Strength’s Finder, there is a strong trend for professionals to lean into their strengths and forget about their weaknesses. While this may be true when speaking of technical skills, it’s quite the opposite when it comes to leadership skills. A leader must discover and improve deficient skills because they negatively impact other people and your ability to lead them. 

Great leaders lean into their weaknesses in order to elevate others

To summarize so far, self-awareness is critical, and it will probably hurt. If you’re ready to take the plunge, here’s how you can begin to get feedback: 

Simply put, you ask for it. Our team leverages SkillsLoft to help leaders understand their current leadership style and their strengths and weaknesses. This tool aids in getting candid feedback by keeping responses anonymous. But not every company invests in a 360° feedback tool and there are always gaps in them as well. Instead of waiting on a company leadership development program, you can use this one bold question Casey Graham, Gravy’s CEO leverages to get unbiased feedback

“What’s the absolute worst part of working directly with me?”

What’s so powerful about this, Graham sets the standard that his organization’s growth is directly tied to the growth rate of every leader within it. This question not only takes courage to send, but it shows your team and that you are in growth mode and models the behaviors you want to see from them.  

What To Do After You Receive Feedback

There is a huge caveat to asking for feedback. If you want to get honest, candid feedback, you must be willing to do something about it. If someone gives you feedback, and nothing comes of it, they won’t be as willing, to be honest with you again. The same can be said for your attitude when receiving some harsh criticism. After someone on your team or organization has given you feedback, follow these three steps: 

  1. Thank Them – Thank them for taking the time and energy to share their insight, whether you agree with it or not. Say something like, “Thank you for taking the time to provide this to me. I am in growth mode as a leader, and I’m going to take some time to consider your feedback and what I am going to do to improve.” 
  2. Act Differently Because of It – Once you determine if the feedback is accurate, formulate a plan for how you will act differently because of it. This may require training, coaching, or just good old fashion behavior change.
  3. Create a Feedback Loop – There is nothing easy about changing behavior. Find a mechanism or cadence to create a feedback loop. Ask your team at least for feedback at least once a year.

Closing

Personal and leadership growth starts with self-awareness. This visibility for where you are today allows you to get better tomorrow. Asking for, listening to, and accepting feedback as a gift is the best way to make this happen.  

It will always be easier to avoid or ignore the truth. You decide if you want things to be easy or if you want to elevate those around you. If you’re committed to your development and the development of those you lead, make it a priority to get feedback from them.

Coaching For Excellence. Join John for a live virtual workshop on December 22nd from 12 PM – 1 PM EST. Limited spots are available! Now is the time to develop your coaching skills. Big Bonus: By registering today you will also get the 2021 Leadership Plan!

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About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping executives and managers to lead their best. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

New Year’s Resolutions the Best Leaders Commit to Every Year

New year resolutions

It’s that time of the year again. The time to make resolutions to make 2020 your best professional year ever. 

If you are anything like me, you have made your fair share of resolutions over the years only to make excuses for yourself when you give up on them. Turns out you aren’t alone.  The latest research shows 80% of New Year’s Resolutions fail by the second week of February. 

In order to make this year different for you, it starts with level setting what a resolution actually is. A resolution is defined as; a firm decision to do or not to do something.

The key to creating resolutions that stick is to make firm decisions about things that are extremely important to you and are attainable to complete. Let’s say you want to make a resolution about drinking less alcohol.  Instead of making a resolution to give up alcohol for the entire year make a commitment to give it up for January. Then keep tabs on how you are feeling and commit to February if you like where you are headed.  

If you are looking for some ideas to make 2020 your best leadership year ever, here are a few resolutions the best leaders commit to every year by making firm decisions and sticking with them: 

Ask for feedback about how they are leading

The best leaders know how important it is to do a gut check on how they are doing from a leadership perspective.  The best way to get this feedback is by asking their people where they are strong and where they need to improve.    

Turns out this isn’t a typical practice for most organizational leaders. After assessing over 40,000 leaders in all different industries and roles, the weakest leadership competency is asking for feedback.  

Resolution: Commit to the act of gathering unbiased feedback about yourself from your team through the BTB 360° Leader Assessment or something similar. 

Communicate why the team is doing what they do

When work and life get busy, it’s easy to lose sight of the long term view on life and work.  While this is normal, it isn’t what the best leaders do. They double down and constantly remind their team about why their work matters and who they are doing it for.  This isn’t something they live up to chance.  

If you aren’t sure if you have done this, ask a few team members, “why do we do what we do every day.”  If the first thing that comes out of their mouth is “money” or “I don’t know,” you have some work to do.  

Resolution: Allocate a day or more with your team to review purpose, mission, vision, values.  Use the time to invite discussion and collaboration.  

Reject negativity and naysayers

I am not breaking any news here but succeeding in today’s business environment is hard. This means there is more opportunity for failure and negative energy to infiltrate a team than ever before.

The best leaders don’t allow negativity to have a place in their culture. They set the standard that negativity doesn’t have a place on their team and if/when they hear it, they make it everyone’s responsibility to squash it.  If negativity continues, the person who is bringing it must find another place to work, regardless of how great of a performer they are.

Resolution: Make rejecting negativity everyone’s responsibility (not just yours). Try “No Negativity January.”

Focus on the most important things each day

The average professional gets 121 emails per day, exchanges 67 texts per day and checks their phone over 80 times per day.  This means there are distractions coming from every angle at all times of the day.   

The best leaders know this and set up their day to work on and achieve the most important things each day.  My friend and entrepreneur Mac Lackey taught me about a secret called WMN. It stands for “What Moves the Needle.” 

Resolution –  Use a 3×5 notecard every single day and write down the most important things you are going to accomplish on each day.

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About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company that exists to turn managers into leaders and create healthier places to work. He is currently booking events and speaking engagements for 2020. John was named one of LinkedIn’s 2017 Top Voices in Management & Workplace and was awarded the 2017 Readership Award by Training Industry.com. John is also the host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. You follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

3 Certain Failures All Leaders Will Encounter

As lovely as it would be to have a smooth, easy path to success as a leader, failure is an inevitable part of the process. The stories of some of the great leaders of all time are filled with more failures than success. Take Abraham Lincoln, for example; he was defeated or rejected from public office seven times before ever being elected as the President of the United States at age 51. A combination of his determination and the ability to learn from earlier failures was key to his eventual success as a leader. 

Henry Ford famously said, “failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”

Failure isn’t final, failure is feedback. 

Regardless of how long you have been leading, failure is going to happen. However, if you use failure as feedback, you create an opportunity to learn and make improvements for the future. Here are a few of the guaranteed failures all leaders will make at some point in their journey.

1. Waiting too long to change

Most leaders tend to get comfortable with their current systems and practices, especially if they have brought good results in the past.

Unfortunately, this can leave your team or company less equipped to adapt to an ever-changing marketplace. As Charles Koch said on the Tim Ferriss Podcast, “Too many leaders of companies are short-term oriented versus long-term oriented.” Koch is right; leaders should always be looking long-term especially in the area of innovation.

During a recent email exchange on innovation, Imran Tariq, CEO of Webmetrix Group, wrote to me, “Business leaders need to develop an agile mindset, especially in the digital age. Being slow to change can be costly, but failing to change at all will prove fatal.” 

Tariq has raised more than $400 million to acquire and scale seven-figure companies, so his quick note hit home for me on a personal level, as I’ve struggled with the building of my own leadership development company. Yes, older methods of creating revenue and implementing new learning solutions still work, but the signs of change are written on the wall. It’s no different in your industry or with your team — it just comes down to how open you are to change.

2. Handling a situation with a team member poorly

It doesn’t matter how long you have been leading a team; at some point, you will lay in bed at night wishing you had handled a situation with a team member differently. It could be the words you chose to use, the emotions you showed in a particular moment, or the lack of empathy.

No leader is perfect, and mistakes are just part of the job. It’s how you learn from those mistakes is what will separate you from others. Get in the habit of writing down the mistakes you make in particular situations and reviewing them every month. Look for opportunities to apply those lessons in future interactions with team members.

3. Bad hires

Even if you have an intensive process in place for vetting potential hires, you never know if someone will live up to expectations until they have actually joined your team. No matter how good of a judge, you may think you are, every business leader will make a bad hire at some point.

Even when hiring for low-level positions, a single bad hire can prove extremely costly — in my company LearnLoft’s research; we estimate the cost to be between $100k – $115k per leader.

The consequences aren’t strictly financial. They take a toll on you emotionally. I have made multiple bad hires in my day leading a company, and it’s hard not to take it personally. You not only are putting the person you have hired in a bad position, but it’s also difficult for other members of your team to pick up the slack of team members who leave.  

As painful as a bad hire can be, this can present a valuable learning experience that helps you hire better in the future. Just keep in mind this quote from Simon Sinek, which has become my guide: “You don’t hire for skills, you hire for attitude. You can always teach skills.”

Yes, failure can be frustrating. It can lead to significant financial losses, and possibly even the end of a current business endeavor. However, remember, failure isn’t final. Failure is feedback.  

What’s Your Leadership Style? Join over 40k leaders and discover how well you are leveraging love and discipline as a leader and find out your current leadership style for free.

About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company which exists to turn professionals into leaders and create healthier places to work. John was named one of LinkedIn’s 2017 Top Voices in Management & Workplace and was awarded the 2017 Readership Award by Training Industry.com. John is also the author the upcoming book Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success and host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. You follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

When The Best Leaders Use Coaching vs. Feedback

I was finishing up a Building the Best workshop and one of the participants asked an important question. “What’s the difference in coaching versus feedback?”  Turns out he wasn’t alone asking the question.

Coaching is a form of development in which a person called a coach supports a learner or client in achieving a specific personal or professional goal by providing training and guidance.

The first use of the term “coach” in connection with an instructor or trainer arose around 1830 in Oxford University slang for a tutor who “carried” a student through an exam. The word “coaching” thus identified a process used to transport people from where they are to where they want to be.  

Feedback, on the other hand, is the information sent to an individual or a group about its prior behavior so that the entity may adjust its current and future behavior to achieve the desired result.

Here are some general differences between coaching and feedback:

Coaching:

  • Focused on behavior for the future
  • Developmental in nature
  • Tends to be question oriented to promote self-discovery
  • Best used to develop skill deficiencies

Feedback:

  • Focused on previous behavior either good or bad
  • Evaluative in nature
  • Direct often in person
  • Best used to improve will issues

As you can tell the two are very different things trying to achieve a similar result.

The natural question is, which one should you use?  

The short answer is it’s almost always better to default to coaching instead of feedback because coaching is coming from the point of view from the person receiving and feedback is coming from the leader’s point of view. Feedback isn’t all bad and if delivered positively can lead to great results. But that’s not typically how it’s given. It generally’s provided with a “what the hell is wrong with your attitude” which doesn’t take a genius to figure out it’s not very productive in today’s environment.

Delivering Direct Feedback Effectively

Being direct with feedback can be an extremely effective way to change the outcome in the future. Before you jump on the “direct feedback” train the most critical factor of delivering feedback is how you do it.

There was a study done by researchers from Stanford, Columbia, and Yale to explore the secrets of giving great feedback. They had middle-school teachers assign an essay-writing assignment to their students, after which students were given different types of teacher feedback.

To their surprise, researchers discovered that there was one particular type of teacher feedback that improved student effort and performance so much that they deemed it “magical.” Students who received this feedback chose to revise their paper far more often that students who did not and improved their performance significantly. What was the magical feedback?

This one phrase:

“I am giving you these comments because I have very high standards and I know that you can reach them.”

If you come in guns blazing giving direct feedback and you are angry and aren’t delivering it to improve future results the feedback is only going to lead to disengagement and resentment.  Remember the whole point of feedback isn’t to make yourself feel good or to show your power as a leader it’s to help adjust behavior to improve future results.

Coaching to Improve Performance

Getting better at coaching is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do as a leader of a team..  The easiest way for you to think about coaching comes from Michael Bungay Stanier “Stay curious a little bit longer and rush to advice giving a little bit slower.”  To do this, you have to focus on pulling the answers out of your team. This ensures their skills are evolving if only for the fact that you are forcing them out of their comfort zone and helping them develop the ability to solve their own problems.

Here are some tactical questions to add to your arsenal to help you get better at coaching:

  • What would you do?
  • I am not sure of the answer, what do you think?
  • What other approaches might you take next time?

So the next time you are trying to decide if you should provide coaching for feedback, default to coaching and when you give feedback, do so in a way that will help improve future results by making it magical.

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About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company which exists to turn managers into leaders and create healthier places to work. John was named one of LinkedIn’s 2017 Top Voices in Management & Workplace and was awarded the 2017 Readership Award by Training Industry.com. John is also the author of Building the Best and host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast. You follow him on instagram @johngeades

How You Should Conduct Performance Reviews in 2018

The thinking and policies regarding performance reviews have experienced a shift within organizations. HR researcher Josh Bersin estimated as many as 70 percent of multinational companies are moving away from the outdated annual review approach to performance management. In the last five years, corporations including GE, Adobe, Microsoft, and Dell have axed annual performance reviews.

Eliminating these practices means leadership in the workplace can take priority over management. The problem is that 30-40 percent of companies still utilize annual performance reviews and most employees hate them. Conversely, the vast number of companies that do not rely on performance reviews are burdened with managers struggling to give constructive feedback.

Great leaders give constructive feedback day in and day out.

The most successful leaders give constructive feedback to their employees on a daily basis. This method is successful because these leaders do two things well:

  1. Document positive and deficient behaviors of team members
  2. Provide feedback in as close to real-time as possible

On the Follow My Lead podcast, I asked Dave Needham, CEO of Ohos, “Why do so many managers struggle to do these two things in today’s business environment?” His response was, “What managers struggle with is the amount of time it takes to document things that create effective feedback conversation or even a performance review.”

Dave is right. It is common today for managers to have 10 or more direct reports, many of whom are working in different time zones and primarily communicating via Slack or email. The amount of one-on-one time managers receive today is much different than in years past. This is not an excuse, however. With the ban on performance reviews must come an environment in which managers can deliver feedback on not only the results but the behaviors and habits of their team.

While formal performance reviews are becoming old-fashioned, this does not mean they have to be ineffective. In fact, with remote teams, a quarterly review is often a good option. Classical Conversations, a leading homeschool education company, has a primarily remote workforce, and because of this, they find the quarterly employee review to be extremely effective. If performance reviews produce great results for your organization, ensure you do these three things:

1. Get data from more than just yourself.

It is impossible for one person to have eyes on everything. You will always find that people are excellent at straightening up in their chair and putting their best foot forward when the boss comes around. This gives even more of a reason to plug into those who interact with the team on a regular basis. Data from co-workers or team members can frequently provide the most insight into the positive and negative behaviors of an individual.

2. Relay data on an ongoing basis.

An alternative to sharing performance data once a quarter or once a year is finding a way to share live data on an ongoing basis. This provides people with a means to be informed on how they are doing across results, behaviors, teamwork, positivity, or work ethic. Basketball games have scoreboards for a reason–no one wants to guess who won the game when the final buzzer goes off. Yours does not have to be an elaborate system. It could be as simple as a spreadsheet with the key metrics being updated both the manager, direct report, and co-workers.

3. Be a great coach.

One of the most important actions any manager can take is being a great coach to their people. Fighting the urge to tell people what or how to do something will help strengthen their skills and ability to perform. Choose to coerce their ideas out. Great coaches live out the saying, “Education of the mind without education of the heart isn’t education at all.” Get inside the heart of your team members and drive their best self out by building upon their strengths and improving deficient behaviors.

Whether you are in an organization that continues to have quarterly or annual performance reviews or not, employ these lessons to improve the performance of your team members.

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About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a full-service organizational health company which exists to turn managers into leaders and create healthier places to work. John was named one of LinkedIn’s 2017 Top Voices in Management & Workplace and was awarded the 2017 Readership Award by Training Industry.com. John is also the host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. He is also the author of FML: Standing Out and Being a Leader and the upcoming book “The Welder Leader.” You follow him on instagram @johngeades.