Leading the Way: Hiring smart is better than damage control

Alex Taylor
Alex Taylor

To effectively lead others, it’s important to hire smart and manage well.

This may seem like simple and perhaps pedantic advice, but more often than not having structure for hiring and managing progress is preferred to no structure, firing and damage control.

Many graduates from Iowa’s Executive MBA program tell me Human Resource Management was one of the most valuable courses they took. The students — experienced business leaders — learned to evaluate, understand and shape corporate culture as it relates to hiring and managing staff for optimal performance.

Hire smart and manage well.

This idea is reinforced in Jim Collins’s book, “Good to Great,” Collins suggests success comes from getting good people “on the bus,” then putting them in the “right seat” on that bus. In other words, hire good people and place them in jobs where they fit, and everyone wins.

Taking shortcuts with hiring practices can lead to expensive and time consuming employee repair and damage control. As the saying goes, it costs less to do things right the first time than to fix them or redo things later.

Having to repost jobs, conduct a new search, interview candidates, then hire and train the replacement for a poor hiring decision is costly and time-consuming.

Additionally, harboring nice people at the expense of organizational productivity is not healthy for corporate culture. Retaining an underperforming employee sends a message of complacency to those who work hard for the organization, and those who harder to make up for the poor performers.

Being disciplined and honest about poor performing employees is difficult. Most leaders sincerely want their employees to succeed.

But unfortunately it’s easier to enable a nice employee rather than fire them for poor performance. This requires discipline — recognize that sometimes nice employees are not always good or productive.

It takes clarity and courage to face facts and make firm decisions based on those facts.

So when should a leader say, “Enough is enough. I’ve got to let this person go?” I would argue sooner rather than later.

But to do so, organizations should have clearly communicated disciplinary policies and progressive actionable steps in place.

Consider these thoughts and how well your organization leads in these areas:

  1. Set clear and actionable goals for the organization and employees. These expectations can be performance-based, behavioral-based and outcomes-based
  2. Where possible, quantify and detail outcomes for successful job performance — that is, job descriptions.
  3. Regularly measure and communicate progress with the company, the leadership team and employees to benchmark performance, identify areas for growth and improvement and adjust expectations as needed.
  4. Take the time to carefully document — in detail — any problems, issues or areas of concern, then recommended measurable steps for action and review.
  5. Have clearly established and communicated procedures for reviews, good performance, poor performance, pay raises, promotions and progressive discipline measures.
  6. Be willing to make the tough choices if an employee is not working out.

With policies and practices to document and communicate performance and behavioral expectations as well as to address issues in a straight forward and honest basis, underperforming employees should not be surprised should they be asked to leave.But first things first,: Hire smart and carefully to lead employees away from the firing line to success for themselves and the organization.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.