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Portland Leadership Institute

Nourish the Leader Within You

Leadership for the 21st Century


What Does it take to get Fired Around Here?

Posted on 10 April, 2013 at 23:06
What does it take to get fired around here.  I learned this question from a great friend, a great consultant, Bob Doyle.  I used it again today with a group of CEOs.  The look on their faces was illuminating.

Must someone be guilty of sexual harassment?  What about embezzlement?  Do you have to slug someone?  How about spitting in the pizza you are about to serve customers?  Poor performance?

What does it take to get fired around here?  What does someone need to do in your company to get fired.

Don't tell me about union contracts.  Don't tell me about public sector protections.  The reality is, after nearly 40 years of teaching, consulting, and listening to CEOs, whenever I ask that question (again, thanks, Bob, for the best question a leadership consultant could ever ask), I see ashen looks on the faces of some of the best leaders we could ever find.  Public, private, union, non union.  No difference.

Because they know that they tolerate poor (terrible!) performance.

What does it take to get fired around here?

The leadership and management practices of the sports and entertainment worlds have always been illuminating for us.  Whether you like them or not, they open a window into human behavior.

The last few weeks have given us great examples.  At Rutgers University, the State University of New Jersey, a coach physically, verbally, emotionally abused his student-athletes.  He was suspended; the attorneys said state rules prevented his termination.  Only when the video went viral was he fired.

But here's the kicker:  when the truth came out, and the coach and Athletic Director were terminated (don't say resigned--that is merely a legal fiction), the President remained.  Isn't the legal defensibility of (to paraphrase) "I had no need to see the video" something that may work in court but does not serve the citizens of New Jersey or the reputation of the university?  Didn't the President have a responsibility to ask questions and protect his students?

What does it take to get fired around here?

The head of officiating of the Pacific 12 conference (UO, OSU, etc.) clearly told referees to call technicals and/or eject the Arizona coach in the conference tournament.  Does this violate the integrity of the game?  Is this a bias you want officials, who are assigned to work games ($5000/game) by this very head to hear?

No, this was not enough to terminate the head of officiating.  "He was only joking."  Not enough to fire until the media and social networking heard of this and complained.  Then he got fired.

What does it take to get fired around here?

Learning from the sports world, it's really simple:  do you fire people for poor performance?  If not, then you are as guilty as the Board of Governors of Rutgers.  Do you fire your top salesperson "merely" because she is guilty of sexual harassment?  If not, you are as guilty as the Pac-12.  Do you get rid of your best performer, who just happens to also berate his subordinates and create immense turnover among your newest and best workers?

If you said no to these questions, and offered the usual excuses, you are in the majority.  And you create problems for yourself and every good performer in your organization.

What does it take to get fired around here?  This is a question you must ask yourself again and again.  If you are uncomfortable reading this, it's time for a change. 

When you do not let your poor performers go, when you turn a deaf ear to your discipline tell your best people to start looking for work elsewhere.  They'll go to your competitors.  And your worst people:  the message is that you will tolerate anything.  They will then test you.  Again and again and again.

What does it take to get fired around here?  If you call yourself leader, this is the most important question you can ask.

Categories: Leadership Musings

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