Episode: The Right Way to Fire the Wrong Employee

Michael Hyatt: Hi, I’m Michael Hyatt.

Megan Hyatt Miller: And I’m Megan Hyatt Miller.

Michael:  And this is Lead to Win, our weekly podcast to help you win at work and succeed at life. In this episode, we’re talking about something every leader doesn’t like to talk about: terminating team members. We’re going to tackle this head-on and show you how to turn this negative into a positive for your company and even for those you have to let go.

Megan: This is such an important topic, because most leaders either do this badly or don’t do it at all. Whichever direction you make the mistake of going, it can have big consequences for your organization.

Michael: It sure can. Here to help us work through this topic is our senior writer at Lead to Win, Larry Wilson. Welcome, Larry.

Megan: Hey, Larry.

Larry Wilson: Hey, guys. Great to be here. This really is a subject where everybody has, I think, a horror story attached to it. Let me ask you this. What is the worst example of firing you’ve ever seen or been personally associated with?

Michael: The way this typically works is it’s behind closed doors so you don’t get to witness this, but the first time I did witness at least the impact of it was early in my career, and this was back in the days before email, even back in the days before fax. This is prehistoric times. What happened was at a company I was working for, we laid off about half the sales force. This was about 10 people. They all received not a phone call but a letter in the mail.

Megan: Oh, that’s terrible.

Michael: Basically, what it said was, “You’re terminated. This is the end of your service. Here’s a severance,” or whatever, but nothing personal. I’m going to tell you something. That rippled through the organization, because everybody knew about it. All of the sales people, of course, complained to their friends on the inside and on the outside, and it became not only a scandal inside the company but, really, through our industry. It was held up as an example of how impersonal and cold and brutal this company was. Do you have one, Megan or Larry?

Larry: I just remember at one place I worked the security guy was named Bill. If you saw Bill carrying a cardboard box, you knew somebody was on their way out the door, because that’s the way they did it. They met you at your desk, and your manager fired you, and then they loaded up your personal effects and escorted you off the property.

Michael: Well, even when I assumed the helm at Thomas Nelson back in 2005 as the CEO, that’s how terminations were routinely handled. Like you said, Bill the security guy… It’s like the Grim Reaper, walking through the hallway, and he has his big reaping instrument, and you go, “Oh my gosh. Who is it? Is it me?” So, yeah, not exactly a healthy way to deal with it.

One of the things that happened was when I became the CEO I said, “Look. We’ve got to deal with this in a more humane way, in a more healthy way,” because it’s creating culture. The way you terminate people, whether or not you respect them communicates so much to your team, so it’s important that we do this well.

Megan: It’s also important that we do it at all.

Michael: There’s that too.

Megan: There are times when it’s absolutely necessary, and you can also handicap your culture by not terminating people when you need to. So regardless, healthy terminations make for a healthy company.

Michael: Yes. It’s kind of like pruning. You have to have pruning. It may look on the surface like it’s kinder to not do the pruning, just let the plant grow, but if you want beautiful, big, healthy plants, you have to periodically prune.

Larry: We have the what, when, and how of termination. I think we should say up front we’re really talking about termination for cause. We’re not here so much talking about downsizing or reduction in staff that’s driven by economic factors. This is about somebody getting fired for cause, although some of the principles I’m sure will apply. So, the what of termination is to terminate for underperformance or misconduct. So, tell me about that.

Megan: There are basically two reasons you’re going to fire someone: either because their performance is not meeting expectations or because of some kind of violation around misconduct. In a case of performance, that should be first of all handled with… You should ask yourself, as the leader, “Have I articulated a clear position description so this person knows what the expectations are for their role?” Also, “Have I given them a chance to remediate their performance?”

If they’re turning things in late, if you just don’t feel like it’s up to snuff, have you had a frank and direct conversation with them about it on, generally speaking, multiple occasions over a period of time so you’ve given them an opportunity to improve? That’s performance, and that’s the most common thing every leader faces that you have to deal with.

When we have that happen in our organization, we approach it like coaching. We’re for that individual. We really want to see the situation improve. We’re always asking, “What is it about our leadership that has possibly led to the lack of performance?” Sometimes that’s a failure to provide clarity as a leader. So that’s one scenario.

Michael: Let me just add, before you go to the second scenario, this is where leaders fail in delegation too. They’re not clear about their expectations. They expect their people to read their minds. As it turns out, people don’t do a good job reading your mind. It’s true at home. It’s true at work. We have to be explicit and direct about what we want. If we’re not, then oftentimes, the reason people don’t meet our expectations is they’re doing their best to guess, but without clear direction from us their performance is going to suffer.

Megan: It’s funny, because what happens oftentimes is that leaders are conflict-avoidant. So, they’re frustrated about something. Their assistant does something this way or somebody else who reports to them, and they don’t like how it’s going and they don’t like the results they’re getting, but they’re conflict-avoidant, so they don’t have a candid conversation about what they’d like to see improve. So they keep getting the same results, and they get more and more frustrated that this person is not meeting their expectations, and then they finally throw their hands up and fire them. That is really not how this should be done.

We’ll get into this more in a minute, but a candid conversation is the first place to start. One of our favorite books on that is called Radical Candor by Kim Scott. That provides a great road map for how to have some of these conversations. Again, that’s the first scenario, where you’re dealing with performance issues. The second scenario would be conduct issues. These are things that are violations of behavior or your core values or extreme moral situations, those kinds of things. There are times when these don’t result necessarily in an immediate termination.

Michael: Let’s just use a quick real-life example. Explain a situation where there was a conduct issue you’ve experienced where you had to terminate somebody immediately.

Megan: One of the things I have experienced is lying. We’re talking about basic character issues here.

Michael: Integrity.

Megan: Integrity. I feel like I can probably, as a leader, help you bring up your performance if you have the aptitude and the desire, but I cannot teach character. That’s something I expect people come preloaded to our company with. That’s kind of your mom and dad’s job, and if they didn’t do it and you didn’t get it I probably can’t help you get farther.

We had a situation where we had someone lie to us directly and repeatedly. Once we discovered that and then brought it to their attention, we realized we just could not move forward with that person. It was such a violation of integrity that that person could not be trusted to be in alignment on their own with our core values, one of which is unyielding integrity. I couldn’t stand before our own team and represent what had happened with integrity unless I was willing to make a hard decision. I was accountable to our team to uphold our values, in other words.

Michael: This one is pretty easy, because it happened over a period of months. It was egregious. It wasn’t just one lie, but it was a series of lies, so that was pretty simple to deal with. What happens if this occurred once…? You caught somebody in a lie, and maybe it wasn’t a bald-faced lie, but it was what we sometimes call a “white lie.” How would you deal with that?

Megan: Well, I would deal with it very directly. I would call them out on it. This is not a place for dancing around. Being indirect or passive-aggressive is almost always ineffective as a leader, so I would deal with it directly. The second thing is I would have a clear process of remediation. There would be some kind of accountability in place. They would be on a probationary period where I’m really watching closely, and if there is any further violation, that’s an automatic termination, because trust is essential. That’s just mission critical to being able to work together well.

Larry: Well, we’ve talked about the what of termination, and that’s to terminate underperformance or misconduct. Two distinct categories there, but that’s what you would terminate for. Let’s talk about the when of termination. What we’re saying here is that you terminate quickly. Tell me what that means, to terminate quickly.

Michael: The first person I ever heard say this was Dave Ramsey. I don’t know if it’s original with him. “Hire slowly; fire quickly.” I think that’s exactly how it should be. Our process is notoriously slow. We know it’s slow, and it’s slow intentionally, because we want to make sure there are a sufficient number of interviews, that we’ve done the background checks, that we’ve done the reference checks, and all that. Once you come to the place where you’re ready to fire somebody, usually you have a preponderance of evidence, whether it’s a conduct issue or a performance issue.

We’re pretty slow to fire on a performance issue in that, like Megan was saying, we want to coach that person, but after you get to the point where you realize they either can’t or won’t remediate their action, then it’s time to make a decision. Any attempt to procrastinate on that or postpone that decision does serious damage not only to your team’s performance overall but to your reputation as a leader, because people are going like, “Gosh. How could he possibly miss this? Why is he tolerating this?” Then there becomes a whole other narrative and a lot of sideways energy.

Megan: A lot of cynicism in that case, if you don’t fire quickly enough, because everybody knows… In fact, usually your team is going to know before you know there’s a problem, because there are behaviors that are going to show up in a peer-to-peer context that are not necessarily going to be as obvious when they’re relating to you, as their superior. So they’re holding you accountable to deal with those issues, but you may be almost the last to know, which means you’d better make it happen quickly at that point.

Michael: I have to say that I know this intellectually, but I’m still pretty slow to fire.

Megan: It’s hard.

Michael: I think you’re much better at it than I am. You know, hope springs eternal. I keep thinking, “I can fix this. I can fix this person.” I tell you, once I start documenting… This is a clear sign to me. Once I start documenting performance… What I do is I typically create an Evernote note, and I start documenting infractions.

Megan: We actually have a formal document for this now that we use.

Michael: Oh, we do? I didn’t even know that.

Megan: You only have two direct reports, so it’s not a big deal now for you.

Michael: Just to let the record be clear, I don’t have an Evernote note on you and I don’t have one on Jim, who are my two direct reports.

Megan: Such a relief.

Michael: But I know, and this has never failed me. Whenever I create that note, it’s over. It’s only a matter of time.

Larry: Let me ask you a question about that, Michael. I’ve been in employment situations where the requirement to document poor performance, for example, was so tedious and cumbersome it was virtually impossible to fire somebody. It took months to do it, because you had to document your interventions and the specific behaviors, and it was a very long process, yet that was all in place to avoid basically lawsuits for wrongful termination. So how do you balance this, where you want to be fair to the employee and you don’t want to leave yourself open to liability, but you have to move quickly? Is there a specific process you use or do you vary that from time to time based on the individual?

Megan: Well, that’s a process that’s administered through our HR manager. Like I said, she has a particular documentation process that she administers when this happens. The most important thing, though, is that you begin early. Sometimes what will happen is a leader will wait until there have been five or six or more infractions on performance, for example, before they start documentation, so they’re really already at the point when they want to fire, but now they have to wait a couple of months and document through it again because they didn’t document from the beginning. It is important to document. That does protect the organization against wrongful termination suits, so it’s something you have to do.

Michael: At the same time, it can’t just be documentation. It has to be documentation plus confrontation.

Megan: Oh yeah, exactly.

Michael: Just because I documented a dozen times that this person failed to do what’s required of their job description but I’ve not talked to them about it, that in no sense is remediation or coaching, and I owe that person and I owe the organization more than that.

Megan: Right. So as a part of that time-bound pathway for improvement, you’re going to want to work in conversations and check-ins along the way, along with your documentation.

Michael: I think also as a business owner you can’t eliminate risk.

Megan: Yep, I agree.

Michael: There are going to be risks on both sides. If you don’t terminate that person, there’s a risk to your organization. There’s a risk to your overall performance, maybe your profitability, maybe your reputation in the marketplace. That’s one side of the risk. The other side is even if you go through all the process, that’s still no guarantee that person is not going to sue you or make some claim that has no basis in reality. So at some point, as a business owner, you just have to exercise judgment. You have to say, “The risk here is greater, so I’m going to go through the process a little farther” or “No, we’re terminating. They might sue us, but we think we’ve done our homework and this won’t stand in court.”

Megan: In general, our process for remediation would be somewhere between 30 and 60 days (60 days would be the outside of it), because we really want to get to the place of making a decision quickly. Ideally less than that, but sometimes for performance issues that’s what you need. Now, again, if it’s a gross misconduct situation, that’s going to be, like, today. As fast as I can get the paperwork together, which usually is going to take half a day for us to pull that together, in most cases, and queue up all the offboarding we typically do tech-wise and all that, it’s over.

Larry: Megan, can you give me some examples of something that would require an immediate termination?

Megan: Some examples would be things like lying, stealing, or embezzlement of another kind. The sexual harassment claim would likely end in an immediate termination once there had been some type of an investigation that had happened or if it was observed… Like, if I observed it happening, you know, there was a witness, in that case it might be a very quick investigation. Those are the kinds of things that would be immediate terminations. Breach of confidentiality could be huge if it were egregious enough. Those kinds of things.

Larry: Okay. Let’s say you have somebody who you’re hoping to terminate or thinking you need to terminate and they come forward and resign or maybe when confronted with behavior they resign. Is that a good outcome?

Megan: Well, I think more likely what happens is you’re contemplating an issue of underperformance and you’re just conflict-avoidant, like we talked about earlier, but you don’t really want to fire them. Maybe you haven’t done it before or you haven’t done it in a long time or you’ve done it and it went really badly, so you think that eventually they’ll just quit or you think maybe you’ll offer them the opportunity to resign instead of be terminated. You think maybe that would be better for morale of your company and it would be more humane to them.

It’s a really easy trap to fall into, particularly if you’re either inexperienced, conflict-avoidant, or frankly, weak. I have done this myself for all of those reasons at one time or another, and when I look back on it I feel kind of sick about it, mostly because it’s dishonest. It’s not honest that they resigned. It’s also not helpful in the end for them, because they’re not having… It might be helpful in the short term, because it would make it easier for them to get another job if they could say they resigned, for example, but it’s not helpful in any kind of behavioral change or wake-up call. Sometimes what people need is a good firing.

Michael: I think it depends. I may have to take issue with you a little bit. In general what you’re saying is right, and definitely if it’s a misconduct issue that’s absolutely right. I would not give them the opportunity to resign, but if it was a performance issue I think there are two things. If they’re being just lazy or not applying themselves, or whatever, then I would absolutely terminate them, but if they were really making a good effort and it turns out we simply put the person in the wrong position…

Megan: I agree with you. That’s a good caveat.

Michael: Maybe the person just can’t do what we’re asking them to do, and it’s just a talent or strengths-based issue. Then I would have an adult conversation with them and give them the opportunity to resign, assuming I couldn’t place them somewhere else in the organization. So I think, like a lot of management and leadership issues, oftentimes it comes down to judgment. It’s not like we can set out a set of rules and a protocol for doing this.

Megan: That’s a really good way to distinguish between the two. In the end, if it’s really your fault as a leader because you have them in the wrong role (ultimately, it’s your responsibility to place people in a situation where they can win, where they’re uniquely gifted to do the work you’ve asked them to do), then I think that’s a great provision to make. The flip side, though, is if you offer resignation when you really need to fire or you wait and hope for resignation, even worse, it’s a passive-aggressive way of dealing with the issues that are on the table, and it can drag out so much longer.

What happens is your staff will begin to think you just don’t have the backbone to do what needs to be done when it needs to be done or there’s something wrong with the organization because everybody keeps quitting, which is a problem. You don’t want either of those. At a certain point, you’re really making a statement about your competency as a leader with how you handle these situations. So I would use that wild card of offering resignation only in very particular situations, and otherwise I think termination is usually the right path.

Michael: Great point.

Larry: Well, we have talked about the what of termination (terminate for underperformance or misconduct), the when, which is to terminate quickly, and that brings us to the third element, which is how. Here we are saying to terminate people with respect and dignity.

Michael: What I want is whenever possible, and it’s not always possible, but whenever possible, I don’t want that person to hate me or hate the organization. If it’s a misconduct violation, then hopefully in the conversation they own it (they don’t always) and say, “You know what? You dealt with me fairly. We went through the process. I was guilty. I had it coming.” But that’s not always going to happen, because people who are in a misconduct situation may be in denial. They may be unwilling to come clean on it.

Same thing with performance. What I would be holding out for for those people is that they felt like they were respected, they were dealt with truthfully (that’s a key component), that we let them know at every step of the way, we were giving them honest feedback, we gave them a chance to remediate their behavior, so they could leave the company saying, “You know what? It didn’t work out, but they gave me an honest shot at it.”

Megan: I always say nobody should be surprised when they get fired. Whether it’s for misconduct or performance, you should never be surprised…unless you just have such a character deficit that you don’t have any moral compass…

Michael: No self-awareness.

Megan: …and you don’t know that what you’ve done is wrong, but if you have any self-awareness and you have a conduct violation that’s egregious enough to be fireable, that should not surprise you. If you’re being fired at the end of a lengthy improvement process for performance and you haven’t met the benchmarks, you should not be surprised. That makes for a more humane, dignified termination process, because then you’re not dealing with people who are like, “What? I had no idea this was coming.”

Michael: I agree. I think to get clear on that outcome and just to put a marker in the ground and say, “We’re going to deal with people in a way that respects them, in a way that’s humane, and in a way that anybody looking at it from the outside in, whether it’s our own employees or somebody who was the opposing counsel, would say, ‘You know what? You did the right thing.’”

Megan: Okay. There are a few ways you can make this happen practically. First of all, whenever possible, terminate someone in person. If you absolutely have to, do it over Zoom or some other video conference, but you want to do it in the most personal way possible. That’s part of how you honor people.

Secondly, choose a time of day that your office is as minimally populated as possible, because this person is going to come into your office, and they’re going to have to leave having been terminated. The walk of shame is not something anybody wants to do. So as much as you can minimize the embarrassment to somebody, the better. That means doing it before your office opens or late in the afternoon or evening after most people have left. That would be helpful. Don’t pick the busiest time.

It can also be helpful to do it on a Friday, to do it at the end of the week not the beginning of the week. That can be helpful for your team in terms of their morale, so it’s not kind of hanging in the air all week long. People have the weekend to process it. Those are just some ways you can be intentional about honoring people.

Consider, of course, whether severance is appropriate, other benefits that will be extended for some period of time, like insurance and things like that. Just consider the questions they may have, and certainly, again, if the situation is egregious and there’s a conduct issue, some of these things are going to be harder to do, and that’s okay. It’s kind of fitting sometimes in that situation. Not that you’re going to be intentionally dishonoring, but you may have to be more severe than you would be in a performance situation.

Michael: Would you extend a severance offer to somebody you terminated?

Megan: It would depend on the situation. Part of the reason you provide a severance is to get a severance agreement that releases the company of liability signed. It’s an incentive for that. So sometimes, even though it’s not earned or deserved, it can be useful to protect you from a legal standpoint. That would probably be my first consideration in that case. If it were a termination for performance issues that were not egregious in some way, then I would certainly consider it. I would say in most cases we do, and primarily for legal reasons.

Michael: Another issue that’s important and part of the how is you need to check with your HR department if you have one. If you don’t, then there are some other opportunities. Check with your corporate counsel if you have outside counsel or check with an HR professional if you have an HR professional you rely on. It’s so complicated today, and you want to make sure you don’t regret how you did it after the fact, because that can become the basis of a lawsuit or the basis of just drama and reputation damage. So you have to check with your HR department, and make sure you’re following the process, because that does protect you legally.

Megan: We generally consult our labor attorney anytime we have an HR issue like this come up so we’re clear on if there are particular considerations that need to be thought through, but in general, we go into those conversations with talking points, with all the documentation prepared in advance. Meaning, if there’s a severance agreement, that’s prepared in advance. The former employee walks out with a folder that has all their information very clearly stated. We don’t provide the talking points for the terminations; in other words, the reasons for why someone is terminated. They’re not going to walk out with our talking points. That’s our confidential material, but those are certainly documented for our own files, and so forth.

Michael: I would say in those talking points it’s important to start with the conclusion. When somebody walks into your office… In our situation, it’s usually going to be the hiring manager or the supervisor, plus somebody from HR. Immediately, they know what’s going on, and if you beat around the bush, all you do is make everybody miserable. So I always, always, always start with the conclusion. “We’re here to talk about terminating your employment with the company.” Then I always make a point to say, “This is nonnegotiable” or “It’s irrevocable.”

Megan: Yeah. “The decision has been made.”

Michael: “We’re not going to negotiate this. That’s not what this is about. We’ve made the decision after a process.” Then I like to give them in the talking points “Here’s why” and make it very clear, very succinct. I’m not going to get into a debate or an argument with the person, because all that has happened prior to this, but “Here’s why so that you’re clear, and here’s what that means. Here’s what’s happening. Following this meeting, you’re going to go with Danielle, and you’re going to be talking about…” You know, whatever it is, the paperwork you need to sign or you’re losing access to your major accounts here, whatever it is, but you have to be clear.

Megan: You have to be very clear, and you have to have your ducks in a row. Besides the documentation, we’re going to have all of the things in place to offboard them. We have a whole protocol for that.

Michael: Is that a word?

Megan: It’s a thing. We have the person who handles all of our technology queued up and ready to go in the office at that point, so if they brought their technology with them, like if they just thought they were coming to a meeting, then we’ll go ahead and confiscate their laptop, their key fob, things like that. If not, then we have a form that’s prepared for them to send all of those things back, and we immediately shut out their access to Slack and various other accounts they would have access to, take their credit card, things like that.

Michael: I’ll make it clear that this is in the case of a termination. If it was a layoff, I wouldn’t do the same thing. I’m not going to just escort them out of the building. That’s going to be a period. We have a situation right now where somebody resigned like six weeks ago and is still working for us. We know it’s coming to a head. They still have all their same equipment, all that stuff, because that’s a completely different context.

Megan: Right. That was a mutual agreement, and it’s very positive and is ending very well. That’s a totally different situation with a different set of protocols.

Larry: There’s another issue here that we haven’t talked about, and that is how to communicate this within the company. When somebody gets terminated, everybody knows eventually, so how do you communicate that or do you or what’s the strategy?

Michael: Yeah, we absolutely do it, and we do it immediately, because people are going to notice their absence. Once that person disappears, people are wondering, “What happened to Joe?” So you have to be immediate about it, and if possible… Certainly in our situations we’ve called the team together. If you can get everybody together in person, fantastic. If you can’t do that, then the next best is to do a video conference, and probably the next best from that is to post in Slack, or whatever, but you have to communicate it.

If you don’t, then what’s going to happen is a story or a narrative is going to begin in your company about why that person was let go and what happened. You want to have the talking points for that too, because you want to be crystal clear about who got fired, why they got fired, what that means for the rest of us. People, frankly, need to be reassured that this wasn’t a layoff, this wasn’t the beginning of bad things. They need to know this is a one-and-done thing, if it is, so they can go back to some semblance of certainty.

Megan: It’s important, as you’re considering your talking points about why someone was fired, to consult your labor attorney on this, because there are certain things that are more and less risky to share. For example, we would be in a confidential setting with our executive team and have more disclosure about what happened, perhaps, than we would share in detail with our larger team. That’s part of how you handle a situation with dignity too. Our aim is not to humiliate or embarrass the person who was fired.

We also want our team to know we fired for cause and generally what the big-picture issue was, but we’re not going to get into the nitty-gritty details. We’re not going to share a play-by-play. That’s not necessary. It’s not really humane, and it’s not wise from a risk management standpoint. We’re not trying to destroy the reputation of that person. Obviously, we’re not going to share about it on social media or anywhere else. We’re not going to vent about it publicly in any way. Again, remember professionalism. It’s critical.

Larry: Today we’ve learned that healthy terminations make for a healthy company if you fire underperformance or misconduct, fire quickly, and fire with dignity and respect. Guys, can I ask you a personal question as we wrap it up today?

Michael: Sure.

Larry: As a leader, I’ve been in a position of having to terminate team members, and there’s a lot of energy the organization puts around the person who’s let go, because everybody identifies with them and feels that pain with them, but it’s hard on a leader. So how do you handle the mental game of having to gear up for this kind of confrontation?

Megan: Well, it is really hard. I think if it ever becomes easy you’ve probably lost touch with some part of your soul that has put you at risk, so that’s important to remember. In fact, one of the HR consultants we work with regularly, who told me once he had fired a couple of thousand people… I said, “Is it kind of not a big deal at some point, like you can just go in and do it with your eyes closed?” He said, “Never, and if it ever is I would be very concerned.” These are real people, so it weighs heavily on you whether you’re doing it for the first time or the two thousandth time. It’s a big deal.

It’s really important to recognize that this is just part of leadership, that the health and well being of your organization is ultimately your responsibility, and that means you have to make hard decisions. So just accepting that it’s part of the job is a big deal. Second of all, knowing that your job, in particular, is to protect the health and well being of the company, even if that means letting someone go; that your ultimate accountability is to the larger team. Usually, when you let someone go and when you fire them, you’re removing someone who is adversely affecting the culture of your company, and that’s really important to do.

Finally, what I would say to myself is, “This is going to be hard, but you can do it and do it with dignity, and then you’re free to have your emotions later.” In other words, as our friend Ian Cron once told me, just put your feelings on ice. By that I don’t mean being cold to the other person. I just mean it’s not about you. You can have your feelings later. You go in and be professional and be the steady force in that meeting, and then you give yourself space to really feel upset about it, to feel sad, to feel angry, all of the natural human emotions that any leader would feel, but you don’t do that in the conversation with the other person.

Michael: Wow. That’s an excellent answer. I don’t have much to add to it, but I would say one of the things that is so important about leadership is courage. We talk a lot about having the right skills, having the right character, having the right strengths, and all that, but so many times… This is cliché now, but doing it scared is usually how I’ve done it. I go into those meetings with cold hands and…

Megan: Every single time.

Michael: …trembling voice. It’s scary. I don’t know why. It’s often an out-of-the-body experience, where I’m feeling like I can’t believe it has come to this and we’re actually doing this and this person is no longer going to be in the company. I just have to be committed to doing it scared and going through the motions.

That part does get easier, because I know I’m going to live through this. I’m not going to die. That person is going to be okay. This is hopefully going to be something that, for them, will be a defining moment in their life that’s going to make them better if they receive it and move on. I kind of reframe it in my own mind like that. “This is necessary for the company. It’s going to be good for the person if they receive it, and it’s good for my leadership to take the initiative and be able to deliver this news.”

Larry: Well, Michael and Megan, thank you for walking us through a very difficult subject today.

Michael: You’re welcome. Thanks for guiding us. So, thanks for joining us on Lead to Win, and join us next week when we’ll talk about one of the biggest problems every business leader faces: how to get people to help you. Until then, lead to win.