Hire slowly, fire quickly?

There’s a popular piece of advice some management consultants like to give companies: “Hire slowly, fire quickly”. The general idea is that companies are often reactive and as such, when they lose an employee, the position is hastily filled with the wrong person. When that happens, the wrong person they say will damage the company’s culture and ruin things for the rest of the team!

Take Time to Make the Right Decision

Instead, the advice continues, management should take its time in hiring the right person for the company. Only after that is done should the person be offered the job. Jim Collins in his book  “Good to Great” calls this the “Right Person, Right Seat” approach. An organization is like a bus. First you get the right people on the bus and only then do you find the right seats for them. In fact, we use it in icube™ as well.

“A bad system will beat a good person every time”

Unfortunately the “hire slowly, fire quickly” advice by itself lets company owners, managers, and leadership teams off the hook. The problem is that if a company isn’t organized, it doesn’t matter how strong a candidate is; they will get frustrated if they don’t have an opportunity for autonomy, mastery, and purpose. W. Edwards Deming the father of the modern quality movement is known to have said, “A bad system will beat a good person every time”

What do We Stand For?

In Ricardo Semler’s book, “Maverick”, he describes the transformation of a company after the leadership team realized how their actions and vice-like grip was damaging the business and created a culture of distrust and lack of accountability. It was only after they realized this and let the team excel did trust and accountability thrive. Similarly, all leadership teams need to ask themselves if they have created an organization that has an effective culture. Have they defined and communicated the purpose and the vision for the team? Are there clearly articulated core values and is everyone, including themselves, held accountable for following them?

If we want the right people on the bus, then we better ensure that the wheels of the bus don’t come off every few miles. And fixing the bus is primarily the responsibility of the leadership team. By having a bus that works, we wouldn’t have to worry so much about having to be reactive because the right people would enjoy working for the company and stay on the bus longer. If the bus had empty seats, the people on the bus would attract other like-minded people to fill them and keep the culture vibrant and thriving!

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