Hire Slow, Fire Fast

08.01.2021 |

Episode #9 of the course How to lead in tough times by Frank McKinley


If you want to win in the marketplace, you need a strong team.

A weak team can do worse things to your organization than any competitor can.

The 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers were statistically the worst team in football history. They lost 26 games in a row over two seasons.

Their coach, John McKay, didn’t want to coach in the NFL. He accepted when the owner offered him $3 million and a chance to build the team from scratch. Hoping for top picks, he ended up with aging veterans and players no other team wanted.

Fan’s patience wore thin. The media make jokes. So did the fans. When McKay was asked by sports reporter Tom McKeuen about the execution of his offensive line, McKay replied—“I’m in favor of it.”

Times couldn’t be worse.

In 1979, things turned around. The quarterback matured. The team played like a team. They won ten games and went to the playoffs.

In 2002, Tampa Bay won the Super Bowl.

You win with committed players, a strong vision, and the will to persevere. You build that team by hiring—and firing—with purpose.


Hire Slow

If you’re desperate for help, it’s tempting to hire the first person you meet.


Find temporary help to see you through. Don’t lower your standards just to fill open positions.

Plan ahead for those times. Here’s what you’ll need:

• A detailed job description that includes expectations, abilities, and responsibilities.

• A list of interview questions to work from. You’ll start with these and let the conversation lead you to other questions.

• Knowledge of what you can legally ask and what you can’t.

• A review process after the interview to assess whether this person is a good fit.

This process isn’t foolproof. But it’s far better than going with your gut or winging it. Checklists keep you from overlooking things that can bite you later.

One more thing—don’t hire someone on the spot. Give yourself at least 24 hours to think it over. If you still feel good after a night’s sleep, go for it.


Fire Fast

People who don’t fit make everyone chafe.

If someone hates their job, set them free to find one that thrills them.

If someone doesn’t pull their weight, give them a chance to reform. Set a deadline. It’s not fair to those who do their jobs with enthusiasm to tolerate those who don’t.

When the drainpipe in your sink leaks, you fix it. If you don’t, your floor will rot and the counter will fall through. Mold will form and bugs will build communities. And a $10 repair will become $10,000.

Solve people’s problems quickly. They won’t go away because you ignore them. They’ll grow like ivy on a wall.

If you threaten to fire someone, do it. You don’t make rules to have something to hang on the office wall. You make them create a fair environment for everyone. You keep it fair by enforcing them.

Threat without follow-through is like an unloaded gun. It looks scary, but it can’t hurt you.


Now It’s Your Turn

What rule have you put off enforcing?

Ask yourself, why do we have the rule? If there’s a good reason, start enforcing it. If not, get rid of the rule.

To hire and lead well, be consistent with your company vision. You serve people best when you cultivate greatness in them.

Next time we‘ll wrap things up and look at how you can celebrate wins with your team. See you then!


Recommended book

Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts by Brené Brown


Share with friends