Good Managers Hire Slow and Fire Fast—Not Vice-versa (Part 2)

Kevin P. Dincher

The most important thing a manager does is decide who to hire and fire.  Making good decisions about who is and who is not on the payroll is critical to your company’s success—and to your own success.  That’s why it is important not to hire too fast (Good Managers Hire Slow and Fire Fast—Part 1).  Unfortunately, no matter how hard you try you can never really be certain you hired the right people until after they’ve been hired.  When a hiring decision doesn’t work out as expected, acknowledge it and move on quickly.

Don’t Fire too Slowly

If firing people ever feels to easy, then it is time to get out of business.  You’ve been doing it too long.  Firing people who aren’t working out and doing it quickly, however, is the best thing for the company, for your team and for the person who needs to be let go.  In fact, the speed with which you fire may be more critical than the speed with which you hire.

Bad Help is Worse than No Help.

Replacing an employee is expensive; it can run you up to 150% of that person’s annual starting salary in recruiting costs, lost productivity and other costs.  But the cost of hiring the wrong people and not firing them right away is immeasurable.

There is the obvious cost of the new hire’s low productivity—but having a new hire who doesn’t work out as expected has other costs.  When the wrong person is hired the ability of teammates and coworkers to produce high quality work is affected—potentially affecting customers and clients and damaging your brand.  If someone is damaging the organization and the environment that you are trying to build, that creates trust issues, and you may lose good employees.

Trying to Make Good on a Bad Decision

You should have a good onboarding and development program for all new hires that helps them fit in quickly and gives you the opportunity to pass on the culture you are trying to build.  However, when you realize you made a bad hiring decision, your first thought is probably not to fire the person.  Your first thought is probably “how can I make this work?”  Then you spend countless hours coaching, correcting, directing, pushing—and countless more hours creating work-arounds.  Then you end up either performing the work yourself or tasking others to do it.  None of this solves the problem but merely perpetuates it.  It’s like my grandmother used to say:  you can’t make a silk purse our of a sow’s ear.  None of these efforts solves the problem of a bad hiring decision.  They only perpetuate it.

Good Managers Remove Obstacles

When you fire fast, it has a positive effect on productivity and morale.  When you take too long to fire someone, it is like a virus that spreads quickly and hurts productivity, morale and the bottom line.  When it becomes clear that an employee is not going to perform at least satisfactorily, accept it and cut your losses.  The second most important thing that a manager does is remove obstacles so that employees can do the work they were hired to do to the best of their abilities (Good Managers Remove Obstacles—but How?).  When that obstacle is a bad hiring decision, removing that obstacle quickly is only fair to all the stakeholders—even the person being fired.

Never lose sight of the ultimate hiring goal: a high performing employee who meets your needs and is a good fit for your company and team


Kevin Dincher is an organization development consultant, professional development coach and educator with 30 years of experience that includes not only OD consulting but also work in adult education,  counseling psychology and crisis management, program and operations management, and human resources.

LinkedIn: Kevin Dincher

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Good Managers Hire Slow and Fire Fast—Not Vice-versa (Part 1)

Kevin P. Dincher

I’ve never watched The Apprentice, the TV series that turns getting fired into a game show, because I don’t find firing people particularly entertaining. 25 years ago as a new and inexperienced manager, I fired an employee for the first time. She already had a lengthy history of poor quality work, low productivity, bad judgment, negativity and troublesome work relationships when I inherited her; nevertheless, firing her was a drawn-out and excruciating experience. As a result, however, I learned early on the importance of hiring the right people—and not hanging on to the wrong ones. You need a top-notch team to do your best work, and so the most important thing a manager does is decide who to hire and fire. Making good decisions about who is—and who is not—on the payroll is critical to your company’s success—and your own success.

Don’t Hire too Quickly—but not too Slowly Either

Because the pressure to fill vacant positions is enormous, the tendency is to rush. The wrong help, however, is worse than no help—and hiring the wrong person is costly. You need to take time to really think about each and every hire you make and not settle for a warm body. Never lose sight of the ultimate goal: a high performing employee who meets your needs and is a good fit for your company and team.

Identify What You Need. 

Before you start recruiting, whether filling an old position or creating a new one, figure out what your real need is. If your business is growing, identifying the need can be especially difficult but also incredibly important because you need to be forward thinking and hire for where you want your company to go, not where it has been. But every hiring manager needs to remember: you are hiring to fill a need, not a slot. And don’t forget the intangibles; how important are collegiality, commitment, passion, confidence, communication skills, patience, high energy, and the like? Identifying these intangibles is just as critical to making good hiring decisions as identifying technical skills.

Put It in Writing

After you have identified your needs, create a job description with as much detail as possible. You want candidates and new hires to be clear about responsibilities from the start so there are no confused expectations. Additionally, be sure to have your company policies and procedures for employees in writing. That will save you big headaches later if someone doesn’t work out.

Don’t “Wing It” at the Interview

I am always amazed when managers tell me they don’t prepare their interview questions ahead of time. There isn’t enough space here to go into all the reasons why this is a bad idea—and how that contributes to hiring the wrong person. Prepare your interview questions before you start scheduling interviews. Yes, a good interviewer is flexible because a good interviewer is a good listener and knows when to follow-up on something unexpected, unusual or unique. But remember your ultimate goal:  a high performing employee who meets your needs and is a good fit for your company and team. In order to achieve this goal, you need to come away from the interview with the right information. If the interview process ends without your having obtained that information, then the interview was a failure. Forbes has a list of some good standard interview questions—but be sure to include some company specific questions and to ask questions that give you a sense of the candidate’s personality.

By the way, never be the only person to interview candidates; have other managers and team members do interviews. They provide important perspectives and make sure that the new employee fits with the existing culture.

Finding someone you like, your team likes and fits your needs and company can take time. Don’t rush it.

But Don’t Take Too Long Either.

Hiring too slowly can create its problems. It is possible to over-process a hire. I have seen teams who think “just to be sure” they should interview 3 more candidate—and then just 3 more, and then just 3 more. I recently spoke with an HR Director at a company that had recently filled a large number of new senior level positions. Candidates went through 15 rounds of interviews! 15! The best candidates withdrew from consideration before finishing the process. When you take too long, you actually risk losing the best hire.

When you are too slow to hire, you also risk your team members becoming overwhelmed and falling behind as they try to fill in or work doesn’t get done. Your organization goes into firefighting mode, and acting strategically becomes increasingly difficult. It becomes harder to solve the hiring problem; the more behind you are due to everyone being so busy, the less time you have to devote to finding and interviewing candidates. In the end, hiring too slowly then flips into hiring too fast as companies over-correct. “Just hire someone so we can move on!”

You need to find a balance so that you are hiring slowly, but not too slowly

Fire Fast … continued


Kevin Dincher is an organization development consultant, professional development coach and educator with 30 years of experience that includes not only OD consulting but also work in adult education,  counseling psychology and crisis management, program and operations management, and human resources.

LinkedIn: Kevin Dincher

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Good Managers Remove Obstacles – But How?

Kevin Dincher

After two conversations with team leaders this week about frustrations they are experiencing at work, I have been wondering how aware CEOs, executives and managers are of all the work-arounds their people and teams do to achieve success. You know what I mean by work-arounds:  those creative efforts to work around obstacles like bottlenecks, outdated rules, inefficient procedures, broken processes, and that co-worker who just can’t deliver.

Because work-arounds generally get the job done, we probably don’t give them enough thought. There are, however, good reasons for identifying work-arounds—and eliminating the need for them.

  • Work-arounds mask problem. Work-arounds are necessary because something isn’t right. Insufficient resources? Inefficient or broken processes? An outdated rule or policy? A co-worker who isn’t up to the demands of the job? There may be any combinations of problems. But because work-arounds get the job done, the problems stay hidden and can’t be fixed. Success rarely drives us to ask, “What went wrong?”
  • Work-arounds have hidden costs. If they are busy creating and managing work-arounds, your people cannot perform at their best. They are using up their resources—time, energy, creativity and budget—trying to bypass obstacles, and their productivity suffers.
  • Work-arounds negatively affect employee satisfaction.  Successfully working around the occasional snag can be a morale booster, but creating and managing work-arounds as an ongoing part of your work is like hauling rocks up a hill. It is frustrating, exhausting, and no one likes it. People can become unhappy and negative, and the impact of employee dissatisfaction is far-reaching, ranging from high turnover and low productivity to loss in revenue and poor customer service.

The Most Important Things Managers Do

The most important thing that any manager does is decide who winds up on the payroll and who doesn’t—that is, ensure that the right people are in the right jobs. The next most important thing a manager does is eliminate obstacles so that people can actually do their jobs to the very best of their abilities. If you don’t support your team members by removing the things that prevent them from delivering, you are setting them up for inefficient and unpredictable results.

Eliminating the Need for Work-Arounds

 1.       Set an Example.

 Start with yourself. The power of setting an example should never be underestimated. What you say is always critical—but what you do speaks louder. Identify your own work-arounds and the obstacles that make those work-arounds necessary. Make changes and improvements so that your work-arounds are no longer needed. You example can build an environment in which seeking improvement is valued and expected—and making things better can become standard operating procedure.

 2.       Listen Carefully.

 Listen to what your people are saying about “the system”—about your company’s rules, procedures, methods, customs, policies and the like. The way your people talk about “the system” will tell you where they experience roadblocks if you listen. Take what the people who do the work say seriously. 

 3.        Ask Questions.

Develop the habit of asking questions when you hear your team talking about “the system” in ways that make you suspect they are experiencing obstacles. Get them to clarify for you the need for work-arounds. Asking for this clarification reinforces the environment in which seeking improvement is valued and expected—and lets people know that you are actually listening.

Also develop the habit of asking what-went-wrong questions—questions about snags, challenges and difficulties—even when the work was completed successfully. Don’t assume there weren’t obstacles just because the outcome met your expectations. The outcome may have only been successful because of a number of work-arounds. Furthermore, by asking what-went-wrong kinds of questions, you do more than uncover obstacles; you acknowledge that the person or team overcame challenges. People like that kind of acknowledgement.

 4.       Do Something. 

 You do need to be prepared to do something about the obstacles you uncover. If you aren’t, then don’t bother with 1, 2 and 3 above. You will only frustrate your people further and show them that you aren’t actually interested in making things better. Remember:  what you say is critical, but what you do speaks louder.

Whenever possible, you should use the resources at your disposal to make the obstacle simply go away. No fuss. No bother. Obstacles do, however, come in a variety of complexities, and sometimes removing obstacles requires real organizational change. In those cases, involve the people who do the work. When it comes to change buy-in by the people affected is good, but ownership is better. Additionally, if you have done your job well—and hired the right people for the right job—no one knows how to do the work better than the people you hired to do the work. Use their knowledge and expertise.  You might just avoid creating new obstacles for them. Of course, if the obstacle really is a co-worker who isn’t the right person for the job, that’s a problem that falls back to you to solve.         

 5.       Celebrate Improvements Wins

 I hope that celebrating wins is already a part of your corporate culture. However, in the non-stop pace of business, it is easy to focus on what is coming up next and forget to acknowledge and celebrate what has been achieved. If you ignore your team’s wins, you miss a critical opportunity to inspire them to even greater successes. You also miss an opportunity to strengthen your own personal leadership brand—but that’s a subject for another time.

So, which of your own work-arounds are you going to tackle first?


Kevin Dincher is an organization development consultant, professional development coach and educator with 30 years of experience that includes not only OD consulting but also work in adult education,  counseling psychology and crisis management, program and operations management, and human resources.

LinkedIn: Kevin Dincher

Posted in Change Management, Leadership, Management, Organization Development (OD). Tags: , , . Comments Off on Good Managers Remove Obstacles – But How?
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