“Don’t be a coward, Karl.”
That is what I told myself as I asked one of my employees to meet me in the office.
I felt like I had a lead ball in the pit of my stomach. The weight of what I was about to do made it hard to keep a clear head.
While he didn’t know it yet, I knew that it was going to be the last day he spent with us.
In 5 minutes, I was going to fire him… and it wasn’t because he was a bad guy…
In fact, he was a great guy.
He’d be a guy I’d always be happy to have a beer with. We had a lot of common interests and he is a salt of the earth human. A quality guy.
Which is what made my decision so hard…
But still so necessary.
Because despite this, I knew that it was a disservice to him and to AA if he stayed.
See, the work dynamic in our organisation is fast-paced and the expectations are high. I don’t apologise for that because it is no doubt one of the reasons that we’ve had the levels of success we’ve had.
Some people might even say our success has been completely unreasonable. Perhaps they’re right. With unreasonable success comes unreasonable expectations (sounds like a Spiderman quote if Uncle Ben were more cynical).
But in my experience, a lot of people find excellence unreasonable only because we’ve come to accept mediocrity as standard.
These days, there is a war on excellence.
In our organisation, excellence is the bare minimum. Excellence comes standard.
Justin puts it brilliantly:
“Being a team player, committing 110%, and going over and above is the bare minimum expectation.”
And for this staff member, we just couldn’t make it work. We were on different pages. We’d given it a red-hot crack, but we weren’t landing where we needed to be.
I sat down.
So did he.
It was time for me to put my big boy pants on.
For a while, it felt like time was going in slow motion.
But knowing there was no good way to start a conversation like this, I just said it:
“This isn’t working… it’s best you find a new job where you can thrive.”
I’d been thinking all day about how I’d frame the conversation, but in the end, I knew I had to pull the band-aid off and not beat around the bush.
In moments like these, there is no room for hesitation. No room for doubt. You cannot second guess and you can’t walk on eggshells.
In the end, it was amicable…
After all this time, it seems we were finally on the same page.
And as the weight finally lifted off my shoulders (and probably his, too), an idea crystallised in my mind that I wanted to share.
Comfort is the enemy of progress.
This reminded me that the army can only move as fast as the slowest troops can march.
And when you’re fighting the infinite battle of business ownership, you can’t afford to not get where you need to go.
Now I know that some of you are going to find this email jarring.
Some of you may even find it callous while others think it’s in poor taste.
Fair enough. I get it.
This is not in my nature, either.
And if I can be frank, I actually hate it.
The last thing an employer wants to say to an employee is:
“Hey, I f*cked up and put you in a job role you couldn’t thrive in. Now, because of my f*ck up, I need you to find a new place to work.”
While admitting this personal failure is hard, it doesn’t mean I didn’t have to do it.
Which is why I’m sending this to you, in case you needed to hear it too.
I’m happy to risk judgement from a few if it means I help others make a decision they’ve been needing to make for a while.
If avoiding an uncomfortable conversation is holding you back, then this is your chance to make the decision that you need to make.
Because on the other side of discomfort is progress.
It’s up to you to chase it.
– Karl Goodman