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How to hire, when to fire!

Monday, 18 March 2013 | By Jonathan Weinstock

As entrepreneurs, we need to make tough decisions all the time. Hiring and firing is one of the most critical decisions we need to make.


Do you know when the ship is sinking and when to cut? Do you know when to invest in training someone? Are you willing to cut a top performer who is damaging to the rest of the team? Do you actually assess a person against a set of core values which represent you and your company, or is it all just driven by sales and profits?


Champion team or a team of champions?


Knowing when to hire, fire and train are key skills of any leader and no one gets it right 100% of the time! In fact, the same applies in any sporting team. There are many sporting teams which often have superstars, yet the team is totally dysfunctional and yet we see winning teams with less raw talent who win premierships.


Some players fit in better and flourish in other environments. Most great teams have a mix of top talent and up-and-comers that have a great attitude and work ethic. There is also a list of washed-up athletes who had all the talent in the world yet their careers were cut short.


In business, getting a ‘read’ on people is tricky in a short amount of time, yet many entrepreneurs make quick hiring decisions (including myself in the past). Sure, ‘go with your gut’ to some extent, but I also try and focus on hard verifiable evidence and try and ignore the rest. I ask straight simple questions with verifiable evidence (call me Judge Judy) to demonstrate skills, performance and behaviours. I can then make a more informed assessment as to the likelihood of someone’s future performance in my environment.


While skills and experience are important in driving performance in many roles, values are what drive all future behaviours, along with helping shape and define your company culture. A person’s values decide the personality of your company and its future. Values determine what your customers, staff and suppliers think of you today AND tomorrow.


A ‘bad egg’ or behaviour incongruent with your core values is a great culture killer and a great way to keep future employees and customers running away from your company! Unfortunately, you can’t train values so easily. They are a function of a person’s make-up and you’re not running a business to be a parent and teach them how to behave.


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Strong values hold the key


Now let’s assume you’ve hired your team and you are thinking of doing a spring clean, or are unsure as to whether to keep or let go a particular staff member.


Here’s a quick guide which will provide you with immediate clarity. Where do your staff currently sit on these four quadrants? Let’s first measure each person against their performance AND values.




Staff in quadrant A are tempting to keep. They bring in the bucks, they keep you going. They are typically a short-term player, and often have an ego. They are always looking out for the next best opportunity and become arrogant thinking the company depends on them. While it might be tempting to keep this person for the short term, your business is at risk and I bet you lose sleep over this person. They are a culture killer and a risk to the long term viability of your company.


Quadrant B is a no-brainer. Do whatever you need to do to keep this person for the long term. They are a top performer who continues to perform. Everyone loves them and they attract opportunities. Focus on keeping them rather than losing them and incentivise them so they stay. These performers have a bright longer term future although are still likely to move after five or more years to keep advancing their career.


Anyone in C needs a quick exit pass. Like at customs when you get waived through at the airport without having to go through a security check, keep them walking and tell them not to look back Unfortunately, legally you can’t do this. You made a hiring mistake. Learn from this mistake and it’s best to be polite and amicable in exiting such a person as quickly as possible and encourage them to find something more suitable.


Quadrant D is a tricky one, and I believe companies can make mistakes sometimes in letting people go who might otherwise become star players. I’ve almost let people go who end up staying for many years and being very successful. Why? If someone shows great intent, attitude, wants to learn and improve and is hard-working – then I would back this person most times.


Invest in training and accept that it might take a little longer for this person to succeed. You still need to closely monitor and measure performance, but you can’t leave this person to their own device, otherwise they will fail. If they improve and succeed, they are likely to be more loyal and stay long term – so I would invest in this person. If performance doesn’t improve over a reasonable time frame, then you need to do what’s best for the business and move this person along.


Bowled out, hit for six


Someone I am looking to hire, who I proactively approached, asked me the other day, “What do you look for in hiring someone and me in particular?” My answer was strong values. I said, “I’m here talking to you because I already know you are a top performer, so that’s a given. But I’m here to get a feel for you and an understanding of your values. If you’re a top performer and a rat-bag, then I’m not interested and I value my sleep too much.” I think he found my answer refreshing to hear.


So who are you going to hire, train or fire today? I think the Australian cricketers who got cut from the team for not doing their homework last week in India will be wanting to move to the right side of the quadrant quick smart!