Ep. 287 – How To Know Who To Keep And Who To Fire

It’s a difficult scenario, but it’s all too common: You have people on your team who simply don’t measure up. They may have poor results, or perhaps they don’t reflect your core values. Either way, something needs to be done. You may even need to fire them. In today’s episode, Cameron offers some insight into getting and keeping the right people, and what to do when there’s a mismatch. He’ll discuss the difference between job descriptions and scorecards, what to do if someone has high values, but low results (it’s not what you think), as well as the dangers of taking too long to fire someone who needs to be fired.

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In This Episode You’ll Learn:

  • The difference between a job description and a scorecard.
  • 10 reasons why people quit their jobs.
  • Why PR is a function of sales, not marketing.
  • And much more!



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In this episode, we’ll tackle a tough issue, knowing who to keep and who to let go. It’s a scenario many of us face having team members who don’t meet expectations or align with our core values. Sometimes tough decisions like firing them need to be made. We’ll check the difference between job descriptions and scorecards. It’s crucial to have clear expectations and measurable goals for your team members. I’ll give you some tips for creating effective scorecards that go beyond simple job descriptions, ensuring you have the right people in the right roles. We’ll also talk about the dilemma when someone demonstrates high values but low results.

The solution may surprise you as it’s not always what you initially think. Lastly, we’ll discuss the dangers of delaying necessary terminations. Holding onto underperforming or mismatched team members for too long can have detrimental effects on your organization. By the end of this episode, you’ll gain practical knowledge and a fresh perspective on building a high-performing team. Let’s get started.

The culture is something you have to look for. When Steve Jobs was launching the Mac 30 years ago, he would show the wooden prototype of the Mac to his employees, and he said if he didn’t see the twinkle in their eyes, he didn’t care if they fit. He didn’t care if they had the skills. He only wanted people who were vibrating like he was vibrating. Part of what you’re looking for in culture is your core values. Core values cannot be single words. They’re too vague. They leave way too much to interpretation.

One of the best examples I’ve ever seen of core values is from College Pro Painters, deliver what you promised, respect the individual, and pride in all you do. Here’s the test. We were willing to fire people who broke our core values. If you don’t fire people who break your core values, they’re merely aspirational values.

I’ll give you the best example I can. I grew up in the Catholic church. I escaped. I still do my “Forgive me, Father,” things. The problem I had with the Catholic church when I was a young kid, I was 13 or 14, and my dad explained going to confession, I’m like, “That’s weird.” It’s weird that you can go to confession and say, “Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned, and here are the twelve things I did wrong.” They give you ten prayers to say, and now I’m all good again?

At thirteen, I’m like, “That’s bullshit. That doesn’t make any sense.” Core values should be something that we are going to live by. If we break these, we go to jail. We can have aspirational values in our company as well, the things that we’ll strive to work towards. Your core values have to be so core that we will never, ever compromise. As soon as you do compromise them, everyone in the company is going to lose faith in you. You can’t put this thing up unless you live by it.

After you know that people are culturally fit, we use the systems from Topgrading to make sure they have the skills to do the job. In Topgrading, what you do is you say, “Over the next two years, what are the skills or what are the things this person needs to achieve? If they get these 5 or 6 things done, I’d been thrilled at my decision to hire them today.” Does anyone here use job descriptions? Does anyone here use scorecards yet? Here’s the difference.

A job description of a great swimmer would look like this, a fast, strong swimmer experienced with all strokes, and a competitive team player. Here’s what a scorecard for a great swimmer might look like, someone who can win three or more gold medals in the Olympics across four or more strokes, someone who can break World and Olympic records in at least 60% of races, someone who can win and break records when swimming for team events. See the difference?

If you use job descriptions, which we all need, you need job descriptions, but you end up with swimmers. She’s a great, fast, strong swimmer, experienced with all strokes, competitive team player. By the way, that’s why your company is growing at 7%. If you want to get growth, you hire people who are the best culture fit and who have done this stuff before because you are going to have proven results going forward. Business isn’t hard. We make it very hard on ourselves. You don’t have to hold people accountable. Hire accountable people.

They asked Herb Kelleher, “How do you get all your employees to smile?” Herb Keller is running Southwest Airlines. He said, “We hire smiley people.” It’s simple. You can’t make a grumpy person happy. Fortune magazine asked me in 2003, “How do you motivate your employees?” I’m like, “I don’t. I show them our painted picture, and then I get out of their way. I hire people who wake up in the morning setting their own goals for life.” You hire motivated people. They’re going to knock the cover off the ball. You can’t motivate someone who’s not motivated. You can’t push a string.

Every time you bring somebody into the company, raise the bar. Raise the average skillset of the group. When you have the employees in your company, listen to them, pulse them, and send out surveys to them, “This is a client or a company that you should all sign up for. I recommend all of you sign up for this week and use it.” It’s a simple tool where you send out one question every week or every month to all of your employees, and it does a quick pulse as to how they’re feeling and what’s happening in your business. You can get a quick read on the employees and your customer satisfaction. Building a great company is about getting the right people on the bus, getting the wrong people off the bus, and getting everybody in the right seats.

This is one of the ways that you’ll get the people in the right seats. Jack Welch is arguably one of the top CEOs on the planet and a former CEO of General Electric. What would Jack do? I’ll tell you what Jack would do. I sat with his successor, Jeff Immelt, four years ago at a conference, and I said, “What would Jack do in the area of people to know if he had the right people?” Jeff drew this little grid for me.

He said, “Every six months, Jack would take the names of all of his direct reports, and he’d write their names in one of these four boxes. He would take the names of all the people who reported to his direct reports, and he’d write their names as well in one of these four boxes. The Y-axis, the up and down, axis were the results. X-axis, across the bottom, was values, low results, high results, low values, and high values.”

What would you do if somebody’s name was in this box here? Bottom left, low results, and low values. What do you do with them? Fire them. What about if somebody’s in the very top right-hand corner, super high results, super high values? What do you do with them? Give them a raise. Promote them, maybe. Keep them. You’re on the right track. Handcuff them to your company for at least 5 or 10 years, but it’s completely different for every A-player. You can’t put one program in place and think you’re handcuffing everybody. I’ll give you an example. Let’s say this first row here are my top employees. Out of 200 employees, I’ve identified 10 that God forbid they quit. I’ll show you how it’s different. Some want more vacation time.

Some want more flexibility. Some want a results-only work environment. Some want more pay. Some want bonuses. Some want phantom stocks. Some want equity. Some want more visibility with the press. Some want more autonomy. Some want more responsibility. Some want to do an executive MBA while they’re doing their programs. Some want to spin off a division and let them be CEO. Some want you to do an acquisition so they can run it. Some want to move to a new part of the country and run it. Some want to move into a new country. It’s different for every single person.

I was mentoring a CEO one time. I’d just started mentoring him. We were on our second call. We did all of our mentoring on Skype video, and he was visibly disturbed. I said, “What happened?” He goes, “One of my key execs just quit.” I’m like, “Which one?” He goes, “Kelly.” I’m like, “Who is she again?” He goes, “She’s my VP of Ops.” I’m like, “What happened?” She’d been with him for four years. He’d given her a 20% pay raise 4 years in a row. She was making fantastic money, and then she quit. She quit for 30% less money to go work somewhere else.

He said,”I didn’t listen to her that what she’d been asking for the last three years was more vacation time.” She said, “I don’t have time to spend the money you’re giving me. I need time, not money. You didn’t listen.” When I left 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, they replaced me with Launi Skinner. Lonnie was the President of Starbucks, North America. Lonnie came up to Vancouver to run 1-800-GOT-JUNK? I was leaving, going, “It’s huge.” She came in going, “What a cute little business.” She came in for less money and no stock options. She came in because the culture was so amazing that she wanted to try and give it a shot to run it.

I wrote another book. This book isn’t just another book for me. It’s for you, the visionary CEO who is looking to grow and scale their business. This book is called The Second in Command: Unleash the Power of Your COO. As a founder and CEO, you’re used to making all the decisions, but the business you have isn’t the one you envision. We’ve all been there. The thing is, you know what you need. You need a COO, someone who can help you build the company you don’t know how to build on your own.

SIC 287 | Keeping And Firing People

The Second in Command: Unleash the Power of Your COO

The Second in Command is your go-to guidebook when you’re ready to scale up. I go through all the details in every aspect of the process, from knowing when you need to hire a COO to identifying and hiring the right candidate, successfully onboarding and working with them, and so much more. Go to www.CameronHerold.com/newbook to get your copy. The Second in Command reveals the benefits COOs bring to companies and explores the many ways a COO mastermind or a COO forum can help grow COO skills. You’ll meet the types of COOs and understand the role each type plays, discover how to bring a COO into your company with the least disruption and avoid common problems before they arrive. There’s no need to go alone. We’re in this together. Now back to the show.

People get handcuffed for different reasons. What about if somebody’s in the bottom right-hand corner, super high values and low results? What do you do with them? Training them and coaching them is the wrong answer. Jim Collins gave us a clue. What do you do if somebody has high values and low results? Move them. You make sure that they’re in the right seat first. Maybe they’re in the wrong seat. When I was in grade school in grade seven, my parents got me a French tutor. I hate French now. I never liked it when I was doing it. I couldn’t stand my tutor. I was mad at my parents.

I had won citywide public speaking competitions that year. Do you think my parents got me a speaking coach? “No, because he is good at speaking. Let’s get him a French tutor because that’s really bad.” Now, I’m average at what I was bad at. Put someone in the right seat, and they’ll excel. We had a guy Christopher Ian Bennett. He was incredible, culturally off the charts, one of only three Renaissance men I’ve ever met in my life. If I read you his bio, it would blow your mind. He was only 23. It’s mind-bending what this kid could do at 23. The problem is he was massively dyslexic, and his natural writing style was the mirror image of letters. When his mind saw letters, he saw the mirror image of them. He couldn’t read.

He struggled with reading. He learned everything by listening and watching. Again, if I read you the list, it was crazy. He was coaching all of our franchisees. There was an operations manual that was 330 pages. Christopher never read it. He couldn’t read, but because he was such a strong speaker, everyone did whatever he said. Depending on what part of the country you went to, everyone was doing it differently because he was making it up as he went.

Philly and Chicago were all doing it differently, but they all loved it. He was incredible. We put Christopher in the right role. Where do you think we moved Christopher into? We put him in PR. PR is a sales function. I have a DVD, some stream you can download, that talks about how to land PR. You manage it under the sales division, not marketing and communication.

You pick up the phone, call the journalists sitting at home, and say, “I got a good story for you. Do you have two minutes?” I’ll talk about it all later. Christopher landed 600 stories about our company in 3 years. He went on to be the head of PR for Best Buy. You put someone in the right seat, and they excel. If you put them in the wrong seat and try to coach them, it doesn’t work out. Make sure they’re in the right seat.

SIC 287 | Keeping And Firing People

Keeping And Firing People: You put someone in the right seat and they excel. If you put them in the wrong seat and try to coach them, it doesn’t really work out.


Give them the training if they are. What about if somebody’s up here in the top left-hand corner, high results, low values? These are the superstar salesmen everybody hates or the engineer no one can get along with. You have to fire them. I hear this all the time from CEOs like you, “You don’t understand my area is different. They’re the only ones who know the code.” I get it. I’ve heard it in 28 countries. I’m tired of it. I do get it. Let me give you a question. I ask, “What would you do if, at the break, you got a phone call and you heard that Bob had just been hit by a truck and killed?”

You’d have to replace him because he is dead. What would you do? You’d make a list of the top five things you’d have to replace him. You’d start working on item one. Go back to your office tomorrow morning, fire Bob, and start working on item one because all the excuses are just ours. If you’re going to fire somebody, the reason you’re doing it is because the cost of keeping the wrong people is fifteen times their annual salary. The data on this is true.

If you have a person who you know culturally doesn’t fit or isn’t getting the work done, it’s costing you fifteen times your salary to keep them. You have to make the cut, but you have to do it in the right way. Getting someone off the bus, you have to do it in the right way. We’ve all heard of the golden rule. Treat people how we’d like to be treated. The platinum rule is treating people how they’d like to be treated.

I had a mentor, a guy named Rob Hunt. Rob was running the Patterson Group up in Canada, reporting directly to Jimmy. It is a multi-billion-dollar company all over the US and Canada, and all over the world. We were having breakfast one morning. It was a Tuesday morning, 7:30, at Denny’s. He said, “Is there anybody in your company you know you have to fire?” I said, “Yes.” He goes, “What’s his name?”

“What do you think his name was?” I go 45 minutes waiting to ask Bob a joke. Sometimes, it gets laughed at. Sometimes, it doesn’t. I said, “Tyler.”He went, “How long have you known you should fire Tyler?” I go, “Six months.” He goes, “Why haven’t you done it yet?” I started listing out all the reasons I hadn’t fired Tyler. He said, “You’re a chicken.” I went, “Pretty much.” He said, “When are you going to fire Tyler?” I said, “I’ll do it by Friday.”

He goes, “No. Don’t ever tell me when you’re going to do something by. Tell me when you’re going to do it. When are you going to fire Tyler?” I said, “I’ll fire him tomorrow.” He shook his head. I said, “Fine, I’ll do it today.” He said, “Good. At what time today will you fire Tyler?” I said, “I’ll fire him at 12:00.” He said, “Good. Call me at 12:05. I’ll be there for you because I know this is going to be hard.” He said, “You make darn sure you’re there for Tyler.”

He said, “Every day for the last six months, you’ve crushed the will of a human being. Every day for the last six months that you didn’t have the courage to stand up and act like a leader, you’ve broken the spirit of a human being. Every day he’s come to work, and you’ve picked on him. You’ve excluded him. You’ve told him all the stuff he’s doing wrong. Every day you’ve pulled him out of meetings he used to be in. Every day he came to work trying his hardest, expecting to get fired, knowing it was going to happen, and you dragged it out because you were scared. Go back to the office and fire Tyler, but you mentor him until he is back on his feet because you failed in the last six months. You didn’t do it soon enough. You didn’t set him free.”

I went back to the office. It was 8:00 AM. I put my bag down, and I grabbed Tyler. I said, “Can I grab you for a sec?” We walked into one of the board rooms. I closed the door. I turned. We’re both 6’4″, and we both started to cry instantly. He said, “What took you so long?” I hadn’t even said anything yet. He said, “I just told my mom three months ago you guys were going to fire me.” He said, “I’ve been wanting to quit, but I didn’t want to leave you high and dry.” He goes, “This is the right thing, but it took you guys too long.” He goes, “I’m the guy that got us on Oprah. I know this is the right thing, but why did you take so long to do this?” We’re both standing there crying in tears.

I did mentor Tyler. He did get back on his feet. He built up a company called Megawatt PR. He was doing PR for some great companies like Chipotle and Milestones, some cool brands. I have been getting emails and text messages from Tyler for years. “Hope you’re well, thinking of you. Love you. How are the kids?” I got an email from him a few years ago that said, “Thank you for making the hardest business decision of my career, but the best of my career. Thank you for setting me free.”


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