by Steve Adubato, PhD

Managers struggle with how to get the most out of their people. They ponder when to hire, to train, motivate and ultimately when and how to let people go. Jeff Fox is the author of a terrific book called “How to Become a Great Boss: The Rules for Getting and Keeping the Best Employees.” Fox raises a series of provocative questions that help managers and team leaders communicate and connect with those that work for and with them.

Q: What are some of the most common mistakes professionals make when hiring new people?

We often hire too quickly out of some sense of need or fear. We don’t clearly think through how a potential hire is going to fit into the current or future organizational structure. We hire people while often ignoring our instincts that something just isn’t right with this person while telling ourselves; “I’m sure it’s nothing.” Too often we settle on new hire just to fill a position

Q: How much time should we spend on coaching and training new employees?

Many organizations create “orientation programs” in which they introduce new hires to the policies and procedures of the company. They also spend extra time talking with new employees about the ins and outs of succeeding in the organization. They may even bring in an outside coach to work with the person and improve some of their skills. That’s all fine, but it’s not enough. Real professional development and coaching never ends. It’s a process, not an event. Things will continually happen in an employee’s career that bring up new challenges and opportunities to learn. The “great bosses” can see this and coach people through that process.

Q: What about firing people? How quickly should we pull the trigger?

Jeff Fox argues that we should “hire slow, fire fast.” I think he’s right. We often take too long to let people go. We become personally attached to them and our history together. We lose our objectivity as to their tangible contribution to the team. We also avoid confronting the employee and dealing with that uncomfortable feeling of talking about potentially letting them go.

Q: What are some of the reasons we should let people go?

There are so many -- underperforming, resisting the role you ask them to play, a chronically negative or bad attitude, which manifests itself in bringing the rest of the team down and lowering morale. We should also let people go when it is clear they have lost that passion or the fire to be their best, and are simply coasting. They may not do anything terribly wrong, but they no longer step up and seek challenges and opportunities to go the extra mile and take risks.

Q: What are the consequences of not firing people who should be let go?

We want to think that not firing someone who is likable, but underperforming, sends the message that we are loyal and committed to our people. However, it also communicates clearly that we accept mediocrity and below standard performance. It undercuts all our communication about excellence and high standards and shows that our rhetoric doesn’t match the reality of our actions. Further, it communicates to the really high performers that in the end it doesn’t really matter because the team leader doesn’t distinguish between their performance and that of the mediocre employee.