Saturday, August 4, 2012

We Have To Let You Go

Firing someone is one of the hardest thing a manager has to do. This is when true leadership comes into it, because its not the "act" of firing someone, its how you deliver it that matters. 

In my previous life I had to "let go" quite a few people for various reasons, and because I worked in a large corporate organisation there were strict rules on how it was to be done. I didn't necessarily agree with it, but was led by corporate policy and enacted the job according to the guidelines. There, I came across many managers who gloated about being known as the "terminator" or even how they silently enjoyed the job because it was "cleansing". I never really understood it. 

While I wasn't fired from my position, but made redundant, the company still applied the corporate policy when delivering the news to me. It was horrible, archaic and very impersonal. I was taken out of a client meeting and up to HR where I sat in a small room with the Managing Director, the HR Director and my manager. My manager awkwardly delivered the script written in front of him, his discomfort was obvious. I was asked to hand in my blackberry immediately which was the only communication device I had for many years, and which held every contact detail of my family members and friends. I was then escorted to my desk to collect my personal belongings before being walked out of the building. In front of my colleagues, my ex staff and my peers - like a criminal. 

How did this effect me? Well lets just say I don't have a lot of respect for that organisation any more. Their methods and policies towards their greatest assets - their "people" are really just words printed on their walls. Resentful? Yes of course, and its been over a year! 

Could they have done something differently? Absolutely!

I made a promise that if ever I was in the position of letting someone go - I would deliver it with courage and ensure that the other persons dignity was upmost paramount. 

Ironically just over a year to the day that this happened to me, I was in the position of sitting down with a staff member and explaining to her that her employment with us was no longer required. Even though I agreed with the business decisions, I still agonised the entire weekend with broken sleep and nightmares. I wrote down what I wanted to say, and was absolutely aware of how I wanted to say it. To me it wasn't about the words but about how I made her feel. 

And I think I did a good job. 

After I delivered the news to her, I then asked if she would like a chance to go back to her desk, say goodbye to her colleagues and take any personal information from her work phone before handing it back in. After a bit of time, she went back to her desk silently and gathered her things. I gave her a cabcharge card so she didn't have to catch public transport home. She then had a chat with her colleagues to let them know, wiped her personal emails, downloaded her photos and personal contacts from her phone, and then gave me a hug for being professional and kind about the way I handled it. I sent an announcement email out immediately afterwards thanking her and wishing her well and ensured that the rest of the team didn't feel vulnerable because of what happened. 

I really do hate the job of letting people go - but this is one of those areas that separates the managers from the leaders. 

I'm a fraud!

I have a confession to make. 

I'm employed and I have been since September last year - I just didn't recognise it officially. 

It's only been the past couple of weeks that I saw myself as being in the right role, and in the right company, and sadly by not recognising it sooner I devalued what I was bringing to the table. 

Last September I asked my husband if I could come in and help out in his IT business. It wasn't that I wanted a hand-out, I just wanted to keep myself busy while looking for my next career. I don't know anything about IT, but I am a damn good operations manager and an exceptional leader. I've also been tagged as the process queen and I knew that I could add my skills to the company and it would be a win-win. 

Still, in my mind this wasn't a "job". It was a place to park my butt and keep my skills fresh until something else came along. 

It's a small company, with a close team and a great attitude. The hours fit in well with my family life and the stress levels are relatively low. There are some flaws, as in any company - but they are nothing compared to where I came from. This is a safe place to bring ideas to the group, and to be given the power to implement them. There are some politics, but having swam with sharks for many years in the corporate world, they are manageable. The company is growing, and becoming industry leaders. Across diverse product lines and industries! Everything that was on my list as the perfect place to work is right here. 

But because I didn't see this as my end game, no one else saw it either. And this meant I lost track in gaining the buy-in and acceptance from the team. 

I made a decision a couple of weeks ago that I would make a commitment to the company and remain there indefinitely. And it felt right. I know its now up to me to do some work to get the team to see me as something other than the bosses wife, or an ex corporate player and to get them to start seeing me as part of their team. I'm up for the challenge!  

I am in the place I need to be right now, and it feels fantastic. (But I don't know how to change the name of my blog!)