The Best Way to Fire Someone If You Have To Do It

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How can you manage wholeheartedly? How can you do the toughest things at work, and still be tenderhearted?

That’s what I recently asked two distinguished leadership thought leaders, Karin Hurt and David Dye. Karin is a former Verizon executive who's now a leadership consultant, author and speaker. David is a former non-profit executive, who now works as a leadership consultant, speaker and author.

Their new book is Winning Well: A Managers Guide to Getting Results Without Losing Your Soul. I recently interviewed Karin and David to get their advice on how to get results without losing your soul in the process.

Kevin Kruse: The hardest thing a manager ever has to do is to terminate someone. If you have to do it, what’s the right way?

Karin Hurt: I think it starts by being really honest with the person. If you're letting them go because of a downsizing, that's one situation and you want to make clear that it has nothing to do with them. But if you're letting them go for performance, you want to make sure that they're leaving with a feeling that they did something wrong or they were not a good fit for the job but not that they are something wrong.

You want to leave them with their dignity intact. I was an HR for a number of years, so unfortunately I had to be the center of a number of these conversations over the years, and I can't tell you how meaningful it is if you do this well and you approach the situation with compassion, and you help people to fail forward. They'll come back to you a couple of years later and say, “You know what? Thank you. That really made a difference in my ability to rebound from this terrible part of my career.”

Kruse: You have a chapter called Inspire Your Team To Double Productivity. How do you do that?

David Dye: Well, the first step is you've got to know what's most important. We all have the same amount of time and in any given moment of time; we can only do one thing. One of the things we really invite every leader, every manager to do is identify what is the most critical behavior that a team member can do to contribute to whatever results you need to have happen.

Hurt: Right. Make sure that you are crystal clear on your expectations. We find that so often when people are faced with performance challenges, they could have been more clear about what they were expecting. If you can take the time to have one very clear conversation about expectations, it will save you 14 why-didn't-you-do-this-the-way-I-wanted-to conversations.

Kruse: How do we “manage up” if our boss doesn't want to win or care about their soul?

Hurt: I think most of us have dealt with this situation at one point or another in our careers, and what we talk about in Winning Well is really creating a cultural oasis. How do you figure out a way to surround yourself with people who will inspire you, will challenge, who will continue to help you grow even if your boss is disengaged?

The other thing I would say is make sure that you are learning what not to do from a bad boss because you can learn as much about leadership from watching the impact a toxic personality or a disengaged personality has on the team and vow never to be that guy.

Kruse: What is one specific thing people can do today to become a better leader?

Dye: Well, first thing I would recommend is invite everyone to ask the people around you, ask somebody above you, next to you, maybe somebody who reports to you, “What does winning look like for our team or our organization?”

If you're not hearing the same answer from everybody, this gets back to the clarity of expectations that Karin was talking about, you want to be sure everybody's on the same page. That is a starting point, make sure everybody's on the same page and you're all aligned going the same direction.

Hurt: I would add, have one tough conversation that you're avoiding. Maybe it's a conversation with your boss that you've been needing to have, maybe it's with a peer, we have a lot of tools that we train people on how to have those elegantly but it's really important to have those conversations. If you do it well, you will not regret what we call “owning the ugly” or having the tough conversations that need to be had.

Your results will improve, as will your relationships.

Click here to listen to the full interview with David Dye and Karin Hurt.

CEO of LEADx, and NY Times bestselling author, of Great Leaders Have No Rules and Employee Engagement 2.0. Get a FREE demo of the LEADx platform at