A rookie salesperson walked away from me at the sales desk totally dejected. He couldn’t figure out why I would dare to suggest what he might say to his customer. My co-manager, Roger Cooper, stopped him in his tracks before he could do any damage to the customer, looked the kid in the eye with a grin that came from the most compassionate part of his heart and said to him, “Son, let’s get you one step closer to your dream job, ’cause this ain’t it.” With that, the kid nearly cried from his huge sense of relief. You could almost see his blood pressure drop as he realized how much he agreed with Coop about the fact that he hated his job. He asked if he could finish out the day and Coop replied that it would probably be best if he spent the rest of the day finding out what should be next for him. Again the kid agreed.
My jaw was on the floor. I’d never seen anything like it. And it absolutely changed my life in terms of how I hired, fired and led my teams from that moment forward. If someone isn’t succeeding on your team, by not releasing them, you’re impeding their personal success; that is, you become one of the things stopping them from succeeding in life. At best, you’re not encouraging them to succeed. You might even be the single factor that is preventing them from succeeding! Can you live with that?
I can’t count the times I’ve heard a dealer say something to the effect of, “If it weren’t for having to deal with customers and employees, I’d love my job!” Consider the following formula for gaining a higher degree of influence over one of those elements; the employees. See if this will help you to hire, lead and fire with more purpose.
I developed a method for interviewing that I’ve used since then. First of all, early on in the interview process, I ask the candidate what their dream job is. Where would they like to be in five, 10 or 20 years? Some day in the distant future, when they sit down and tell their grandkids stories about what they used to do, how would they fill in the following blank? When I was younger I was a _______, and I loved every minute of it! What kind of work would they do if every job in the world paid a dollar a day? Asking a job candidate what they’re passionate about gets them talking, and that’s how you get to know them.
I’ve seen so many people conduct interviews where all they did was describe the job and wait to see if the candidate stuck around. If they couldn’t scare ’em off, they were hired. That doesn’t help you learn anything about the person you’re thinking about empowering to treat your customers right.
If you can’t find common ground where a candidate can grow the skills needed to achieve their dreams, don’t hire them. But if you can, then help them create a plan to follow that will help them make their dreams come true. When you and your employees agree on your expectations at the very beginning of the relationship, then both parties a better shot at staying in sync for the entire relationship — including knowing what would constitute a proper end of the relationship.
Figure out what skills they’ll they need to learn to excel in their ultimate job. Can you help them develop those skills? What’s in it for them? What’s in it for the company? Once those questions are answered, then you can create the plan together.
Start them on the path to their dream job either in your company, with the help of your company, or even passing through your company. Then periodically review their progress toward their goals as compared to the original plan. That’s the best of both worlds for both parties.
Here is a great template for that plan borrowed from Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
Covey talks about five components of what he calls stewardship delegation. Proper stewardship delegation requires a clear understanding of:
- Desired results: People need to understand exactly what is expected
- Guidelines: Parameters under which they can operate
- Resources: Money, people, training manuals, etc.
- Accountability: Who do they report to and how
- Consequences: Both good and bad
Try using that outline as a skeleton to hang the meat of the employee’s plan on.
If you’ve done your job as a good hirer and a good leader, then firing becomes a much less dramatic event. If you’ve set the expectations of the employee, agreed to help them get where they’re going, and kept your end of the bargain, you’ll have put yourself in a vastly different position. If it doesn’t work out under those circumstances, you’ve put yourself in position to release them from their obligation to you. That’s a heck of a lot less harrowing than firing someone. More importantly, it’s a lot less traumatic than being fired.
Everyone in your company, including you, deserves to have their dream job. I suggest that establishing this type of relationship with your team will help you to enjoy a much better relationship with both your customers and your employees. Try this approach with your next hire. I dare you!