Ferne Kotlyar

How do you fire someone you just hired? How do you fire someone that you took under your wing and helped them grow? How do you not feel guilty?

In this episode of The Frame of Mind Coaching™ Podcast, Ferne and I explore a case about a lady named Carly, who just hired Lee to work for her small business. Carly hired her not because she was qualified, but rather because she thinks that this job could set Lee back on track. Carly takes Lee in and helps her out.

A year later, Lee is underperforming and not progressing. Carly knows that it would be best for the company if Lee were gone, but she doesn’t know how to fire the woman that she took under her wing.

First, I address whether Carly should have hired Lee in the first place. I say that Carly shouldn’t hire anyone out of pity because that causes her to see those employees as weak, as a person who cannot succeed without help. Seeing Lee in that light doesn’t help her thrive.

Now that Carly has already hired Lee and has decided that Lee is no longer benefiting the company, Carly needs to see Lee in a better light; a light that says, Lee will thrive outside of this organization.

Have you ever been in a situation like this? Or do you have a case you’d like to share? Let’s talk! If there's a challenge you'd like to discuss here on the podcast or privately, please reach out to us:



Episode Transcript

Kim Ades: [00:00:05]
Hello, hello. My name is Kim Ades, and I am the President and Founder of Frame of Mind Coaching, and you have just joined The Frame of Mind Coaching Podcast. Today, it's a special day because it's Fridays with Ferne.

As you know, Ferne is my daughter, and she's coming to us today to throw at me a special case so that we can discuss it.

Ferne, welcome.

Ferne Kotlyar: [00:00:26]
Hi, thank you so much! It's always an honor to be here.

Kim Ades: [00:00:30]
So, what do you have for me today?

Ferne Kotlyar: [00:00:32]
Okay. So today we have a case about a lady named Carly. Now, Carly is in her mid-fifties. She started her company about 10 years ago and she really enjoys what she does. She essentially brings together-- she runs events where she brings together young people and different companies and organizations, and connects them together in order for them to have opportunities.

So be it employment, volunteering, internships, whatever it is, she connects these two groups of people so they can develop those connections. And Carly runs this company where she has three, maybe, full-time employees, about five part-time employees and a whole slew of volunteers when she runs these events.

And so, one of her full-time employees just moved on to another job and she's hiring, and this lady reaches out to Carly, this lady named Lee, and she says, "Hey, I heard about your company. It sounds like an incredible company. And I think it would be a perfect fit for your opportunity, and I really need this job. Can you help me?"

And Carly says she wants to know more. She's curious, she's interested. And she says, like, "why do you think you're a good fit, but also why do you need this job so badly?" And Lee proceeds to tell her about her experience at home and how she's living with her ex and it's a toxic situation and she's living with her kids as well.

They're with her ex and essentially she needs money to move out and move up in her life. And, you know, Carly sees an opportunity in Lee and she says, "yes, I'll take you on and I'll help you learn and I'll bring you into the company".

And so, lee works for Carly for about a year and Carly kind of takes her under her wing, helps her out, brings her in and really, at the end of the day, becomes her friend, and becomes her part of her support network.

The issue is that Lee is... While she's, you know, a great person, she wants to do well, she's not a perfect fit for the company. She doesn't necessarily go out of her comfort zone when it comes to getting leads. She isn't creating the results that Carly's looking for. And Carly put a lot of time and effort into her, but she still isn't at the level that Carly's looking for.

And for a long time, people have been telling Carly that she's not the right fit, and finally, Carly's ready to accept that. The issue is that she doesn't know how to fire her. She feels guilty. You know, she took her under her wing. She helped her out and she doesn't know how, you know, with a team that's so small, that's so close, she doesn't know how to let Lee go.
So what advice do you have for Carly?

Kim Ades: [00:03:17]
Boy, I understand this problem. It's a challenging one, right? Because when a leader brings someone in and actually becomes close with them, they get personal in that relationship.

Now, one of the questions we want to ask is should leaders become personal with their employees, should a friendship emerge, or should leaders keep an arm's length relationship with their people? Right? That's the first question that appears for me beyond how to let this person go.

So was this the right relationship to build in the first place? And I want to kind of go back and say, what was it that Lee did that made Carly think that she was the right fit? And so I want to back up, right? Because there are lots of pieces to this puzzle.

Piece number one is should Carly have hired Lee. And so it sounds like what happened was Lee hugged on Carly's heartstrings and Carly's a nice person, so Carly took on Lee. It's her nature to try to help people who are in trouble or who need help, and so she did exactly that, except what she didn't do is decide what the criteria was that she was looking for and make the right assessment.

Right? So number one is how do we hire people? Are we clear about what we're looking for about the expertise, about the background and are we making the right decisions when we're hiring people? And what is that based on? If we're to remove the emotion from the situation, how do we select the right people?

And very often we get clouded because of someone's story, because we like the person, because they're charming, because they're personable and we're not necessarily assessing for true skillset, true track record and true history. And we need to do that.

The second piece of it is that the relationship got to be very personal and strong and a lot of people might say that that's a terrible idea, but I don't think so. I think it's a very good idea for leaders to develop close, intimate relationships with their people.

I think one of the greatest, let's call it Achilles' heels or weaknesses of employers is they don't get to know their people. And when they don't get to know their people, they don't understand how they're wired, how to push them forward, how to understand what motivates them and what drives them.

And they don't understand how to help them get past their own personal barriers. And so getting to know someone on a personal basis is very important for really helping them maximize their potential.

Now let's fast forward. So Carly finally assesses that Lee is not the right fit, what happens now? So, when Carly sees Lee as a weak person, and she feels sorry for her, she's not actually allowing Lee to thrive or survive too well. And so the first thing we want to do is ask Carly how do you see Lee. What is she capable of? What does she bring to the table?

And we need to help Carly see Lee in a better light. In a light that says "she will thrive inside, and if she doesn't thrive inside the organization, she will thrive outside of the organization", which helps her reduce that attachment, that guilt factor.

And so one of the things that I always want to tell leaders is that if somebody is not a right fit, you're not serving them by holding onto them. You're not doing yourself a favor. You're not doing your company a favor. You're not doing your brand a favor by holding onto them.

In fact, I have a client right now who's going through the exact same situation and he's holding onto someone who's really clearly not the right fit, because he feels bad for this person. And so feeling bad for someone does nothing for them.

Ferne Kotlyar: [00:07:36]
I think you said--

Kim Ades: [00:07:37]
It does-- yeah.

Ferne Kotlyar: [00:07:38]

Kim Ades: [00:07:39]
Go ahead. Yeah.

Ferne Kotlyar: [00:07:40]
I think you said something important, that they'll survive, they'll thrive inside and outside. So if they don't thrive inside, then you have to know that there'll be okay without you. And I think that's an important piece because a lot of people think that they won't be, that they'll fall into a pit with you.

Kim Ades: [00:07:57]
Well, that's exactly it. And I want to go back to this statement I just made. Feeling bad for somebody does nothing for them. It does nothing for you, and it does nothing for them and it does nothing for your company. So the question is how can you get them to a better place? How can you get your company to a better place?

But first and foremost, how can you start thinking about them better? So that you're not feeling bad about them, you feel good about them. You have faith in their ability to succeed elsewhere. And perhaps you're the gateway, you provide them with that introduction to the next place. Perhaps you can see them in another opportunity.

In this particular case, Carly has a setup to help Lee go to the next job, right?

Ferne Kotlyar: [00:08:49]

Kim Ades: [00:08:50] She technically has an organization, an opportunity to make the right introduction. And I think that that honesty is very, very important. And so one of the things that I would recommend to Carly is to say, look, have you established expectations? Have you established OKRs? OKRs are Objectives And Key Results.

Is Lee clear about what is expected of her on a monthly, quarterly, yearly basis? And if she's falling short, then it's easy for you to have that conversation and say, "Hey, you know, we've been doing this for a month, two months, three months, a year, and these were the expectations and this was the performance, and so I can't continue this way", so that this is not a shock to Lee.

And that Carly says, and I really want to get you to the right place, I'm going to make an introduction for you. So there's no feelings of "I feel sorry for you" because that doesn't serve anybody and that's really the key component here.

And as a business owner, it's really important to have people who are the right fit, to have people who are performing and people who represent you. And if they're not performing up to your standards, understand that that is a reflection of you.

Ferne Kotlyar: [00:10:16]
And so what happens if, you know, Carly does exactly that and, you know, Lee kind of latches on and she feels sorry for herself, and she expresses that to Carly? Like, "why are you letting me go? Like, I need you. You took me in and now you're cutting me off".

And you know, she, she gives her this whole long story about how upset and heartbroken she is. How does Carly move on from that? Can she still-- I mean, we established that they developed some sort of friendship. Can they still remain friends? What is the future for the two of them?

Kim Ades: [00:10:53]
The future will be what it will be. And here's the thing is that oftentimes we hold onto the present because we're afraid of the future, right? Because we're afraid of a negative outcome in the future. And what I want to say is if that friendship is meant to be, it will be.

But in the meantime, you know, even if Carly says, "okay, fine, I'll keep you", the relationship is severed already. In other words, if I keep you out of pity, that's not going to work for you in the long run. It's not going to work for me in the long run. It's just not going to work. In fact that if there was a relationship at all, then that relationship has just been slowly degraded because  of that action.

And so it's very important for Carly to say, "I get it and I, you know, I do feel bad, but I see you succeeding somewhere else and I'm in your corner and I'm behind you. And I see you really thriving somewhere else. I'm going to help you make that happen.

But here it's not a win-win and I need it to be a win-win. And I want you to be in a situation where you're performing at your highest level, and this is not the place".  And so she needs to take that risk.

Ferne Kotlyar: [00:12:06]
Makes sense to me. So if you were to give Carly one last piece of advice, what would you say?

Kim Ades: [00:12:13]
I would say that it's very important for her to be clear about what she expects of Carly-- of Lee. Sorry. And are those expectations laid out? That's the first thing.

The second thing is that I think it's very important for her to be honest with Lee and really look at the numbers and say, "here were the performance expectations. Here was the performance. There was a massive gap. You know, in these three next months, this has to turn around. If not, this is not going to work out for us". And so that Lee is not shocked.

Ferne Kotlyar: [00:12:53]
Makes sense. Well, thank you so much. Thank you for that advice.

Kim Ades: [00:12:56]
Thank you! That was an interesting case because I have a client who's dealing with it right now, and I have dealt with it myself in the past, and it's not easy to let someone go that you care about.

But at the same time, it's really important for you to be honest and honor yourself, the person you're hiring and the company, the brand, and make a decision from that vantage point.
Of course.

For those of you who are listening, I hope you took something away from this conversation. If you have a case or a challenge that you want to throw our way, please do.

My email address is Kim@frameofmindcoaching.com

Thank you so much, Ferne. As always, your cases are challenging!

Ferne Kotlyar: [00:13:43]
Thank you.

Kim Ades: [00:13:45]
Have a great day!

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