Wednesday 11 March 2009

When to fire

There must be thousands of posts on how to manage people. Most of them will rightly tell you to create a job summary, communicate goals and continually assess performance. If the people above you, below you or around you aren't able to achieve their agreed goals then you'd be right to expect them to be asked to leave. What I would like to consider here is what to do if they are achieving these individual goals, but are failing to apply the rules of the manifesto. What happens then? How serious should you take it?

Before I answer that question, let's make sure we're clear on the issue of management generally. Good management will involve communicating responsibilities and goals, regular reviews, and open and frank discussion when things aren't going to plan. I want to make it as clear as possible that you have to have strong, capable managers. If you don't have this, then don't try to get them to implement the manifesto. They'll screw it up! Instead, focus your efforts on training those managers. Get them to understand the importance of communication, and individual growth. Most of all, make sure they see a team of exciting individuals, not cost centres and numbers. When you have that sorted out, then you can get them to implement the manifesto.

So, assuming you are confident you have strong, capable management and you find the manifesto not being followed, what next? I have had this happen myself in some of my teams. The individuals are successfully completing their tasks, but they're losing focus on what is really important and what really matters; the relationships between colleagues. When individuals forget the importance of relationships, they can elevate stress (and volume) levels and damage the working relationships in teams. Is this important? You bet it is. For me, failure to consider team mates is as bad as failure to perform a role. Working with people is a vital part of every role. If you find individuals are well managed but they still aren't applying the manifesto, then you need to consider a few things:

Do they understand the manifesto?
Never forget the possibility that the manifesto hasn't beeen properly communicated. Make sure that you talk to the team to explain why the manifesto is important.

Do they agree with the manifesto?
So they understand it but they think it's rubbish. What are you going to do? Well, I'd repeat the issue above. I find it improbable that anyone wouldn't want to work under the manifesto, but maybe that's just me. Will you allow one person to work to a different set of rules? Of course not, if people don't want to sign up to the manifesto then they aren't right for your team. Explain that this is a requirement to work in the team and if they aren't able to join the movement then explain that you'll need to replace them with someone who can.

Do they have the ability to implement the manifesto?
Some people just don't have the ability to work well with others. If you have people like this and you think that they are still suitable to work in your team, then I would say that you're asking for trouble. I don't care how technically talented an individual is, if they aren't able to integrate into a team of people then they have no business working for you. They need to go and find a job that doesn't require interaction. Possibly working freelance from home or something similarly anti-social.

The point I hope I'm getting across in this post, albeit clumsily, is that the manifesto is really that important. Don't get the idea that if someone is doing their job then you can tolerate non-manifesto behaviour. If you find an individual or manager that is not following the manifesto then they are causing a drain on your team somewhere. If you like, you can investigate where this drain is happening, but if you're sensible you'll accept that anyone in your team that can't work to the manifesto has to go. They're bad news. Oh, and if I haven't made it clear already... anyone that can't do their job should already be gone!

Sorry that this might sound like a negative post, but I believe that the most important parts of any team are the relationships between people. That's why recruitment is the most important thing any manager will ever do. I hope to perk you all up by talking about the recruitment process next week. So stick with me and stay positive!


  1. Of course! Why waste spending on team building exercises? Just sack all the people who don't get on with eachother!

  2. Hi Anonymous, short but sweet!

    As I mentioned in my post, this advice assumes that the basic management tasks are being completed. I include conflict resolution within these tasks. I also recommend open and frank discussion. I find this a much more productive and honest way of resolving confict than a paintballing day or standing in a room pretending to be a tree.

    If you feel that team building works for you to resolve conflict then that's great, but at some point you may find there are persistent issues, and I would ask what you do then. More paintball?

  3. Hmm food for thought there but not sure I agree entirely with this post. The difficulty is that I think this may stifle diversity and forms of individualtiy and specific skill sets within the company. Lets take the Manifesto... A good solid grounding and strategy for implementing structure to a business and foundations, however you have to ask yourself where has that manifesto come from? who was involved in the process of creating the manifesto. Is there a full agreement in place and buy in from everyone in the company on this is how things should be working? If not then it may seem that this is just an implementation of a management strategy that doesn't sit ture with all employees. Is it the case that you are looking for clones within the company with no individuality? as long as they conform they are o.k? Different personalities make a business diverse could it be that there is managment failure from not being able to place people in the correct positions, correct responsibilites, non team working or team working. Would you sacrifice an excellent salesperson bringing in astronmical amounts of revenue just becasue they did not work well within a team. The "I work well in a team " scenario is not always what is needed different skills require different personalities different personalities bring different values, diversity. Or do we want a business where we are all made from the same mould. In this post you assume you have competent, strong capable managers that assumption in itself is wrong because if they are not all of these and the employee working under that management has not conformed to the manifesto have the management not failed,, & the manifesto itefl not failed due to the lack of communication. Or are you saying the managers themselves should not be in the organisation.

    Anyway I waffle but hope that makes sense.. Diversity is a good thing IMHO. Individuality and personalities should not be punished

  4. Hi Anonymous, thanks for taking the time to contribute. I knew that this would be a slightly controversial post, and I'm glad it has generated some feedback. I’ll try to address each point you’ve made and let’s see where we are.

    I’ll start with the manifesto itself. I wrote the manifesto, but consulted my teams and all managers. It was then presented to the company as a whole and everyone was asked for comment. I don’t claim that this is proof of buy-in, and I do believe that the manager is ultimately responsible for having this conversation with their teams. As I stated in the post, it’s very important to make sure that individuals understand the manifesto. If any don’t agree with it then we’re open to discuss changing it, but so far no employee has disagreed with it. So far!

    With regard to people being in the wrong jobs, I completely agree. This is something I intend to focus on in my next post. It’s vital we recruit the right people and put them in the right jobs. If you haven’t done this, and have people in the wrong jobs with nowhere to move them, then what would you do? If you don’t correct that mistake then who else are you harming?

    As for the question of whether I would sacrifice a high performing sales person? Well, if that sales person was regularly insulting other team members, causing arguments, spreading unhappiness around the teams, then my question would be, who the heck wouldn’t fire them? If you place profit in front of people, then you aren’t following the manifesto, and you’ll have unhappy people in your teams.

    I’m not sure about the issue of stifling individuality. We’re lucky enough to have huge variations in our teams, but everyone is expected to have some basic skills, for example, empathy, communication and tolerance. If they don’t have these skills then how can you stop them making other team members unhappy? Isn’t it their right to be happy too?

    As for managers, they should be monitored just as closely as everyone else, if not closer, and the same policy must be applied to them. If they haven’t got it, and can’t learn it, then they’re making people unhappy and it’s not fair on them.

    Again, I thank you for your comments, but the main response I want to get across is that there are always several parties involved in situations, and we must considered them all. To make allowance for one individual by causing detriment to another would be against my manifesto. That applies even if one is a genius and the other an average Joe.

  5. Indeed quite a controversial standpoint.
    The emphasis on the manifesto is where I find this a double standard, from what you have just said.

    'I want to make it as clear as possible that you have to have strong, capable managers. If you don't have this, then don't try to get them to implement the manifesto. They'll screw it up!'

    Surely the managers within your company are the ONLY people who should be following the manifesto, and if they're screwing it up - then they are not managing the companies requirements?

    If your managers do not have this as a mantra then how can the company as a whole be expected to follow suit?

    It sounds to me like you have some very messed up topology

    As you state, it is your managers efficiency at handling their departments and enforcing any regulations or expectations that makes the whole thing tick.

    If you have a team of say 50 people and out of those 50 60% have little or no faith in their leader, you have a walkout on your hands, or in many industrial cases, a union bashing down your door telling you to 'get rid'

  6. Hi RMLC, thanks for your comments.

    I don't think I made a clear enough distinction over management and manifesto. When I refer to management, I mean a bunch of basic tasks and responsibilities. These include implementing HR policies, making sure teams know what roles they are performing and managing team structure. When I said that managers would screw it up, I was referring to managers that weren’t yet performing these basic management functions.

    The reason I make this separation, is because the manifesto sits on top of these tasks. If everyone is performing their roles in the literal sense, then the manifesto is there to consider how people feel whilst they’re performing them. I don’t advocate trying to strictly implement the manifesto if these tasks aren’t being done. I think it leads to bad decisions. Don’t forget, this post was about taking strong action against failure to implement the manifesto, and this can’t be allowed where managers aren’t sufficiently skilled.

    Finally, if your managers are performing these tasks, and you can implement the manifesto, then I whole heartedly agree that managers should be using it, but I completely disagree that it should only be them. Everyone has a responsibility, be it to their team, their colleagues, or their manager, and the manifesto was designed to apply across the board.

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